China is losing its only hope in the European Union- German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Till not very long ago, Merkel was leading the Brussels-based intergovernmental body into taking a pro-China stance but now she too has started speaking against China. On Friday, she warned Beijing that Europe would start limiting Chinese access to its market, if China itself doesn’t give greater market access to Europe. Over the recent past, Merkel has time and again shown the intent of disowning China.
Last month also, Germany released an India-centric Indo-Pacific policy, much to the paper dragon’s chagrin. Then Germany also started speaking about serious human rights violations in China. Merkel is towards the fag end of her career and bound to retire from active politics after German Federal polls next year. She wants to leave behind a legacy, rather than going down in history as a pro-China German Chancellor. Therefore, taking on China is becoming more of a compulsion for Merkel.
Merkel has been quoted by SCMP as saying, “If there is no market access from the Chinese side for certain areas, this will of course also be reflected in the fact that market access to the European market will be narrower,” during a press conference held after a two-day special EU summit. The German Chancellor added, “We naturally expect reciprocity for the investment agreement with China.”
Merkel, who is still the de facto EU leader. is making it clear that China can no longer have its way with the Brussels-based body. She said, “We find that the barriers to entry with regard to China are still too high. This will now be discussed further.”
German Chancellor’s growing antagonism is nothing less than a brutal shock for China, which was betting heavily upon Merkel for staying relevant within the EU. But now Merkel has made tectonic shifts in her China policy, because fast-changing geopolitical circumstances are forcing the German Chancellor to remodel her diplomacy.
Till now, Merkel’s Great Power ambitions were all about refusing to toe Trump administration’s tough China policy and ensure that Germany doesn’t forgo its business interests in China. Merkel-led Berlin thus wanted the best of both worlds. Beijing itself was celebrating how Trump could not defeat China in the EU. Chinese Foreign Ministry overhang and CCP mouthpiece Global Times had gone as far as saying, “US fails to rope in others against China.”
But now Merkel can no longer go about safeguarding China. She knows that the tide of global opinion against China is so strong that Germany would also get swept away into oblivion if it tries to stand alongside Beijing. Within the EU member-nations themselves, anti-China sentiment is at an all-time high. And therefore, Merkel doesn’t want to be standing with Beijing at the eleventh hour of her 15-year long career as Germany’s Chancellor.
Merkel also understands that 2021 would be a transition phase in Berlin and therefore Germany will have to arrive at a tough China policy before Merkel retires. Otherwise, the French President Emmanuel Macron who has shown the intent to mobilise anti-China opinion will get an opportunity to take over EU leadership from Germany.
Merkel is a tall German leader, and like any other leader of her stature, she wants to ensure that her name goes down in the annals of history as one which stood up to China, and as a brave German who went down fighting the Chinese devious plans. She doesn’t want to be judged by future historians as someone who was standing up with the world’s enemy at a time when a new world order was beginning to take shape.
Moreover, China has shown no promise when it comes to meeting EU’s demands of free market policies and greater market access. The Dragon has taken Merkel’s goodwill for granted and now the German Chancellor has no legroom left to help China reach a deal with the EU. Merkel’s tenure as the EU Chair comes to an end in January next year, and her term as the German Chancellor too is set to be over in 2021. As such Merkel would have herself realised that standing alongside Beijing hasn’t really achieved anything.
Moreover, most of Merkel’s potential successors aren’t very fond of China and the next German Chancellor would most probably be a China hawk. Therefore, the German Chancellor wants to leave behind an affable legacy for her successors. She doesn’t want to leave behind a diplomatic nightmare for her successors and therefore Merkel is racing against time to formulate Berlin’s tough anti-China policy. For her taking on China is no longer a matter of choice, but only a point of sheer compulsion.