With just a few weeks leading up to the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing, business representatives have expressed relief at the abatement of the excessive anti-Chinese campaign, supported by state financed foundations and stirred up by a falsehood propagating media on the question of Tibet. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) The campaign provoked spontaneous popular protests inside China and among Chinese living abroad. Even the Chinese government was considering for awhile undertaking counter-measures, provoking serious apprehension among German business representatives. For years the People's Republic of China has by far been not only their most important non-European export market, behind the USA, but also a site for lucrative German investments. (Volume: US $15 billion by the end of 2007.) Due to the growing importance of the Chinese economy, losses would be painful. Though the Chinese economic growth rate will fall to around ten percent this year, this East Asian nation could, in 2008 or by 2009 at the latest, take Germany's third place on the world scale of the highest gross domestic products - and still continue its rise.
In fact, the Tibet campaign abated before it could lead to breaches, after business circles brought massive pressure to bear. German exports to the People's Republic of China even rose in the first five months of the year by a strong 35.1%. German suppliers accounted for 4.8% of China's total imports. "This is a peak value in Asian comparisons" says the German Office for Foreign Trade (BfAI). New business deals are already in consideration. During a PR event of the German industry in Chongging, the booming metropolis in central China in mid-May, the German Asia-Pacific Business Association reports on a "constructive Chinese-German atmosphere". Three-digit billions will be invested in the infrastructure, in the near future. Seeking to thwart new anti-Chinese campaigns in the interests of securing contracts for German companies, the Asia-Pacific Business Association hopes that "a wave of sympathy for China" will be able "to bring some of the resentment of the past weeks back into a balanced context."
Short-term losses are currently looming for German companies only because of the Chinese government's environmental measures. To reduce air pollution and fight smog, the government in Beijing has ordered more than 80 industrial enterprises in the vicinity of the capital to shut down production from July 15 to the end of September. Five of these enterprises are German. Following Berlin's intervention, four of these enterprises have been granted exceptional permission to be allowed - unlike their Chinese competitors - to continue operations regardless of air pollution.
Entrée for Enterprises
Alongside the diplomatic help, the German government is still providing German enterprises financial support for their Chinese businesses from the "development" budget. Even though the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) broke off talks with Beijing in the spring, because of the uprising in Tibet, they are due to be resumed again in the fall. The BMZ has already informed the business sector that the "rule of law dialog," aimed at bettering the judicial framework of the country, will be continued. "Development" funds can not only buy political influence, says the SPD, they create "also an entrée for German enterprises." After Japan, Germany is China's second largest so-called development aid financier.
"The Biggest Influence"
Former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder pleads for a continuation of the cooperation with Beijing to strengthen the German position in the People's Republic of China. "Of all European states, Germany could have the greatest influence in China" writes the social democrat, in a signed article published in the press on July 17. But this would call for "trustworthy cooperation". Schroeder's plea, to keep the ambitious People's Republic under control through integration, is not uncontested in Berlin. But transatlantic circles, doubting the success of the integration strategy because of China's enormous potential, are still demanding a more stringent confrontational policy toward Beijing. The support for the Tibetan secessionists is one of the means to put pressure on China. This is accompanied by stirring up anti-Chinese resentment in German public opinion.
Berlin is working at various levels. Since his tour of Germany in May, support for the Dalai Lama is no longer of high priority. Neither the chancellor nor the president is willing to meet with the "God King." But state-financed German foreign policy front organizations, particularly the FDP- affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the Green-affiliated Heinrich Boell Foundation are persisting in their support of Tibetan exile politicians. Though the German Interior Minister will be going to the games, his party colleague, the president of the European Parliament, in a highly symbolic gesture, announced that he would boycott the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. His boycott is not expected to have a great effect - he was not even invited.
The anti-Chinese atmosphere in the German population, which has been clearly accentuated since this spring's Tibet campaign, is now being stoked by numerous organizations, including the Protestant Church. As Regional Bishop Margot Kaessmann reported, the Protestant Church of Hanover has already ordered 200,000 so-called protest armbands with the imprint of a Bible verse, meant to express outrage over the violation of human rights in China. Similar protests by the Protestant Church against Western war crimes in Afghanistan or of the German government's silent acquiescence to CIA abductions and torture are unknown. The sports commissioner of the Protestant Church of Germany, Valentin Schmidt, points out that the "protest armbands" are forbidden within the Olympic compound in Beijing, but the "German House," where the studios of the first and second state television channels are located, does not fall within these restrictions. There, Schmidt explains, the athletes can "express themselves freely" at press conferences - an ill-concealed plea for anti-Chinese position statements.
What at first sight seems to be contradictory tendencies in Berlin - economic cooperation on the one hand, anti-Chinese campaigns on the other - when taken together appear more like the same double strategy applied during the period of the socialist/capitalist system conflict. While German enterprises were forging an ever closer cooperation with Eastern European countries, following the legendary "natural gas pipeline deal," the West was simultaneously intensifying the confrontation - particularly with the 1980s rearmament - until the Eastern adversary collapsed. In spite of all the differences to the conflicts of that period, the approach taken today by the West shows many similarities, pointing toward the same objective. Then and today, the objective is to wrestle down a rival major power.