Bert Rürup and Dirk Heilmann,
Fette Jahre. Warum Deutschland eine glänzende Zukunft hat
(Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2012), p. 98 (hereafter, Rürup andHeilmann,
Goldman Sachs Portfolio Strategy Research, “China: An opportunity and a competitivethreat”, 4 May 2011.
However, this overlap between the sectors of the economy in which Germany excels and the sectors in which China wants to excel in the future also means that there is potentialfor conflict as well as co-operation between China andGermany. In particular, as its companies move up the valuechain, China will increasingly provide competition as wellas a market for German exporters, both in China itself andin third markets. In fact, as Bert Rürup and Dirk Heilmannhave recently pointed out, “Germany is providing emergingeconomies with exactly the type of products that they needin order to build up the capacity to compete with Germancompanies around the world”.
Competition is likely to be particularly fierce in business-to-business sectors. The recent collapse of the Berlin-basedcompany Q-Cells – just a few years ago the world’s largestmanufacturer of solar cells – illustrates the potential threatto German manufacturing from Chinese rivals. But there isalso likely to be competition in mass market business-to-consumer sectors such as the automobile industry where brands such as Volkswagen are strong but will in thenext 10 years face increasing competition from Chinesecompanies that are either state-owned or state-supported– for example, on electric cars, where there are particularly stringent criteria for technology transfer as a requirementfor producing in China.
In the medium term, Germancompanies could as a result be pushed further into luxury niches.The conflict over access to Chinese rare earths in 2010 may also be a sign of things to come. Germany imports between3,000 and 5,000 tonnes of the 17 elements known as rareearths that are vital for the production of high-tech products,mainly from China. After China reduced its exports of theminerals in 2010, Germany complained to the EuropeanCommission and the G20. The EU, Japan and the US arenow taking the case to the World Trade Organization. Inthe meantime, Germany has also taken bilateral stepsto diversify its supply. In particular, it signed bilateralagreements with Mongolia in 2011 and Kazakhstan in2012 to secure access to rare earths. (Since 2010, however,demand for rare earths has fallen and Chinese export quotashave not been fulfilled.)However, despite this likelihood of greater competitionand the potential for conflict over access to raw materials,German companies are surprisingly optimistic about theirfuture in China. They think the market is growing enoughto accommodate Chinese competitors. They continue tocomplain about involuntary technology transfer throughenforced joint ventures and about the lack of market access but say there have been improvements in intellectualproperty rights in China and that there will be furtherimprovements in the future as China increasingly needsto protect its own companies. Rürup and Heilmann arguethat although Chinese companies will be increasingly competitive, “the fear that some in Germany have of anexcessive dependence on China are exaggerated”.
Germany’s approach to China
Germany’s approach to China is influenced by
,particularly among Social Democrats. Willy Brandt’srealist, “anti-ideological” approach to the division of Germany and Europe was based on the idea of “Wandeldurch Annäherung”, or “change through rapprochement”,that Egon Bahr had developed in 1963.
In order to achieveGerman reunification as the culmination of a long-termprocess of “small steps”, Bahr sought détente with theSoviet Union through foreign trade and the “weaving” of political, economic and cultural ties between West and EastGermany. The
is seen in Germany as one of theFederal Republic’s big foreign-policy successes – a decisiveand distinctively West German contribution to the endof the Cold War. The lesson for future policy was that, asStephen Szabo puts it, “dialogue, diplomacy, mutual trustand multilateralism were the best approaches for dealing with seemingly intractable opponents”.
At least since Schröder, Germany’s approach to Chinahas been based on the idea that the best way to transformit is through trade – “Wandel durch Handel”, or “changethrough trade”. The hope is that, as Schröder put it,“economic exchange” would lead to “societal change”.
ThusGermans, particularly Social Democrats such as Schröderand Frank-Walter Steinmeier, tend to emphasise co-operation instead of confrontation with China.
LeadingGerman China experts such as Eberhard Sandschneider alsoemphasise “Einbindung”, or integration, and co-operationinstead of confrontation.
As foreign minister, Steinmeierproposed a
, or “community of responsibility” – a kind of German version of World Bank President Robert Zoellick’s idea of China as a “responsiblestakeholder”.In the context of this approach – what one might call
– Germany also tends to take a low-key approach to human rights. Although Germany has a bilateral human rights dialogue with China like other
Rürup and Heilmann, Fette Jahre, p. 101.
as an “anti-ideological” approach, see Gordon A. Craig, “DidOstpolitik work?”
, January/February 1994, available at http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/49450/gordon-a-craig/did-ostpolitik-work.
Stephen F. Szabo, “Can Berlin and Washington Agree on Russia?”, the
, 32:4, October 2009, p. 24, available at http://www.gmfus.org/wp-content/les
, p. 141.
See, for example, Gerhard Schröder, “Warum wir Peking brauchen”, 27 July 2009,available at http://www.zeit.de/2008/30/China; Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “Was wiruns von China wünschen”,
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
, 28 July 2008, availableat http://www.faz.net/themenarchiv/sport/olympia-2008/sportpolitik/gastbeitrag- was-wir-uns-von-china-wuenschen-1664308.html.
See, for example, Eberhard Sandschneider, “Gestaltungsmacht China. MitKooperation statt Konfrontation zur Ko-Evolution”,
, March/ April 2012 (hereafter, Sandschneider, “Gestaltungsmacht China”).