Germany's neighbors fear that the country will stumble again on the same stone, that of dependency. First it was with Russia, which it was obstinate in turning into its great gas supplier against all odds, understand as wind the forceful warnings of two North American administrations, and as tide, the timid European recommendations. As a result, Germany first, and the rest of the European countries behind, pay for the Russian energy blackmail.
Now the risk of Germany's dependence on China resurfaces. In 2021, the European Union has already officially classified Beijing as a systemic rival. It was an awakening after years of naivety during which Chinese state companies roamed Europe freely. This past week, the leaders of the 27 redefined their policy towards the Asian giant to reduce its economic dependence, so as not to repeat the mistakes of the relationship with Moscow.
However, within this harmonic general purpose Berlin's position is out of tune, not so much in declarations as in deeds. The most recent controversy is the possible sale to China of one of the three terminals in the port of Hamburg. Specifically, the Chinese consortium Cosco wants to acquire 35% of one of the three container terminals operated by HHLA, which has sparked discrepancies in the government coalition.
You can add the official trip to Beijing that Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz is planning at the beginning of November, accompanied by a large delegation of businessmen. China is already Germany's main trading partner.
"China watchers in Berlin and his own ministries have warned Scholz of the inherent shortsightedness of increasing Germany's reliance on China for exports and access to raw materials, which are key to the transition to renewable energy," says Judy Dempsey, analyst from Carnegie Europe. But this expert recognizes that the automotive and chemical industries see things differently. She shows that BMW opened an extension to its factory in Shenyang, in the northeast of the country, at the beginning of the year; that Audi is building an electric vehicle plant in China; and that the chemical BASF inaugurated in September the first phase of its new factory in that country.
These are signs that German industry does not listen to the warnings of its own Foreign Minister, the green Annalena Baerbock, who said that "a complete economic dependence based on the principle of hope makes us politically blackmailable", in statements to the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
“This is bad news for Germany, the EU and Berlin's relations with the United States. The more Germany depends on China, the more chance Beijing has to use this leverage on Berlin, particularly by separating Berlin from other EU countries. And this without mentioning the political control over rare raw materials”, concludes Dempsey. Be that as it may, at the European summit Chancellor Scholz defended himself by saying that "the EU is interested in global trade and is not with those who promote deglobalisation".