No foreign policy strategy is so romantically glorified in Europe as the concept of promoting internal change in China and Russia through economic rapprochement. An innovative idea during the Cold War has turned into an antiquated belief that is diligently revered but rarely reflected. Neither in Moscow nor in Beijing have Western investments and involvement in international organizations set a sustainable reform process in motion.
The opposite is the case. The tanks that the Kremlin is deploying on the border with Ukraine bear witness to this. And the zeal with which the Chinese regime is destroying democracy in Hong Kong testifies to this. It is time to rethink “change through rapprochement”, more precisely: to transfer it to new partners.
To countries that have a strategic interest in closer ties to Europe. Change through rapprochement means diversification today, overcoming the narrowing of strategic thinking to China and Russia, in short: change through variety. Especially in the Indo-Pacific region – the most important stage in international politics due to China’s resurgence as a world power – many countries are courting Europe’s attention. The EU must respond to this.
Fortunately, it is now doing that too. Only at the beginning of the week did Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warn that the EU would quickly conclude its trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand and start new negotiations with Indonesia and India. At the beginning of May, the Europeans want to lay the foundation stone for closer cooperation with New Delhi in Lisbon.
These initiatives underpin the European strategy for the Indo-Pacific. It leads to the realization that Europe has aligned itself too one-sidedly on the Chinese market in the past few decades. This has resulted in dependencies that become dangerous in times of geopolitical tensions – and stand in the way of a value-oriented and self-respect-based foreign policy.
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The speechlessness of the Chancellery is characteristic
The fact that Chancellor Angela Merkel does not dare to publicly criticize Beijing for the arbitrary sanctioning of German experts and politicians is shocking, but not in the least surprising. The speechlessness of the Chancellery is the consequence of the previous Asian policy and an expression of its failure.
Just as every retail investor learns not to invest all of their money in one stock, the EU must seek new partnerships. If politics opens up new markets for the economy and companies offer growth prospects beyond China, Europe will break out of the trap into which it has maneuvered.
More: The China risk is becoming increasingly incalculable for companies