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China’s rising tensions with many countries around the world, and its own citizens, has prompted many to reevaluate their foreign policies towards the state. However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refusal to do so is putting the future of the European Union on the line, according to an expert. Dr Andreas Fulda, a senior fellow at the University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute, spoke to Express.co.uk about the risk that this approach entails.
He said: “First and foremost, it’s a political issue and Angela Merkel is not able, in my view, to understand the gravity of the challenge of continued one-party rule, whether it’s COVID-19 or the treatment of minorities or the suppression of Hong Kong or the military threats against Taiwan.
“That doesn’t seem to kind of register for Angela Merkel, and that is a big problem.
“If the German Government doesn’t take the threat of the CCP seriously then, by extension, the EU will not be able to make progress in terms of developing a more coherent China policy.
“That, in itself, will diminish Chancellor Merkel’s international standing in the long-run.”
Dr Fulda continued: “So in the history books, I think historians will be rather critical about her role when it comes to the challenge of China constrainment.
“One of the problems with Chancellor Merkel is that she’s been a continuity candidate, so to speak, she’s now been in power for more than 15 years.
“In terms of the China policy, she’s been by-and-large following Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schröder, which means she’s prioritised economic relations with China at the expense of other enlightened interests, for example relating to democracy and human rights.
“Here we have to briefly reflect on another Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, who was often praised towards the end of his life as an elder statesman.”
The expert added: “But his thinking on China was always quite problematic, he saw China more as a civilisational state, very much in cultural terms.
“He didn’t really question the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party, which he probably saw as a guardian of Chinese culture and society.
“But of course the Chinese Communist Party is anything but a guardian of Chinese culture and society.”
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Dr Fulda told Express.co.uk: “In fact, they’ve been undermining grassroots folk culture and mainland China civil society for many decades.
“But his thinking has been very influential and when you listen to what Chancellor Merkel has said about China, it is a very culturalist approach.
“I think it is inappropriate to view China that way because they are basically governed by a Marxist, Leninist Chinese Communist Party and a Stalinist Xi Jinping.
“He’s never denounced Stalin and many of his policies are Stalinist.
“So to suggest that somehow this is engaging with China is a cultural issue that really misses the point.”
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