If there is one European leader who has a "direct line" to China, it is Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel. In early April, a phone call with Xi led to China's speedy shipments of high-quality medical supplies to Germany multiple times.
As a result, Germany received more than 50 million face masks from China and other crucial protective gear. Face masks and personal protective equipment are the crude oil of the Covid-19 era, precious assets.
The idea of a "special relationship" between China and Germany has been discussed for over a decade due to the growing economic interdependence between them.
Germany and China are close trade partners. In her 15 years as Chancellor, Angela Merkel has visited China 12 times.
According to the World Economic Forum, China and Germany are the "main trade bridges between" Asia and Europe.
Sino-German trade accounts for almost 30% of total China-EU trade.
Trade with China has grown steadily over the years. From 2005 to 2019, exports from Germany to China more than quadrupled from $26 billion to 107.5 billion.
Simultaneously, From 2005 to 2019, exports from Germany to China grew from $32.5 billion to $79.7 billion.
Another remarkable special relationship, for example, is that between German and Chinese automakers. Volkswagen sells more than four million cars every year to Chinese consumers.
These vehicles are produced mainly in factories across China. When you consider Volkswagen sold approximately 10 million cars worldwide in 2018, China accounts for about 40% of overall sales.
Why China Wants Germany by Its Side
China wants Germany by its side because it wants to overtake the world's number one economy: the United States.
But Why does China want Germany for its plan to dominate the 21st century?
The United States and Japan, the world's first and third-largest economies, have tense relations with China. Although both countries have vast trade and economic interests in the Chinese economy, they profoundly mistrust Beijing.
So that leaves China with the 4th largest economy in the world, which is Germany.
China also wants Germany because Germany is the European Union's unofficial leader with its massive economy and population. China knows that little gets done within the European Union without Germany's consent.
Therefore, If China can win over Germany, it can win over the entire European continent and then the world as a whole.
Furthermore, Germany is a vital partner for China's Belt and Road Initiative in Europe. Angela Merkel strongly supports the Belt and Road Initiative.
Hamburg and Duisburg have become two critical hubs for China-Europe freight shipments in Europe. The number of train trips between Germany and China has surged from 30, before the pandemic, to about 50 visits.
China's Grand Strategy
On October 14th, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy released a report titled "Made in Germany, Co-opted by China."
The report examined China's "Made in China 2025" (mic2025) plan, initially announced in 2015. The paper also sheds light on the details of China's strategy to take over Europe economically.
The linchpin of China's strategy for a European economic empire is Germany, the 4th largest and Europe's largest economy.
According to the author, Emily de la Bruyere, China views the European continent as the "battlefield for what they recognize to be a third world war."
Also, the author stated that "China sees Germany as the linchpin in that battle." "If China can win over Germany, it can win over Europe."
The Made in China 2025 (mic2025) is the first step in a three-part economic plan designed to transform China into a "manufacturing great power."
As the second-largest economy in the world, China is already a leader in global manufacturing. However, being in second place, behind the United States, is not good enough for China.
In its bid to gain global power and influence, China seeks to acquire foreign technology and secure industrial control.
At the heart of this strategy lies in China's cooperation with strategic German industries such as machinery manufacturing, automotive, chemicals, and medicine.
The purpose is to increase Germany's dependency on the Chinese economy. As a result, China can coerce Germany and possibly the EU into adopting Chinese trade & technology standards.
Germany's Unique Appeal to China
Germany is of immense strategic importance to China. It shares borders with Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark. Therefore, Germany is a crucial crossroad between Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Northern Europe, and Southern Europe.
Through strategic investments and takeover deals, Chinese companies have embedded themselves in Germany's manufacturing high-tech and industries.
Unlike France or the United Kingdom, where companies generally head to Paris and London, many German cities have unique ties with China.
For instance, Frankfurt, Germany's finance hub, is home to several Chinese banks, including the Bank of China and the Agricultural Bank of China. It is also home to the Renminbi clearing center. Its international airport is one of Europe's busiest, with more direct flights to China than any other city in Central Europe.
The city of Dusseldorf has attracted Chinese technology giants such as ZTE and Huawei and ZTE.
Further south, Germany's manufacturing and automotive base, Munich, has attracted Chinese automakers such as Geely and Chery.
Finally, the city of Hamburg has historical ties with China as its leading European seaport. China accounts for roughly a third of containers traded at the Port of Hamburg, making China the biggest trading partner in container traffic. The Port is also a vital hub for China's trade with Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia.
Germany's Mixed Responses
Germany knows that China's reasons for investing in Germany aren't altruistic. Therefore, the German government is eager to make sure that China does not gain too much economic influence in Europe. Germany knows that China, being the economic dynamo it is, is a significant competitor.
In 2018, a German intelligence report stated that China was attempting to "influence every level of German society, business, and government."
According to an Axios article, German Chancellor Merkel received the report. Unfortunately, she kept the report secret in order not to damage Sino-German economic ties.
Then there is also the question of China's human rights abuses. Germany has avoided criticizing China for its treatment of Hong Kong protesters, Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, and Taiwan.
Both China and Germany have a lot to gain from strengthening economic relations with each other, even if both have reasons to be wary of a relationship.
© 2021 Meziechi Nwogu