Germany’s new tryst with the Indo-Pacific: Berlin’s change in diplomacy towards China

Updated: May 26

Pratik Dutta,

Junior Research Analyst,

Internationalism Research.

When it comes to the economies of the European nations Germany stands first and this transfixes added advantage to Chinese interests as Berlin happens to be Beijing’s greatest trading partner in Europe with the total trade value amounting to 200 Billion Euros. Perhaps it because of such a huge capital that is at stake which makes German chancellor Angela Merkel reluctant to offer any resistance to Chinese ambitions.

However, with the outbreak of the coronavirus in recent times and Chinese refusal to allow an independent investigation behind the causes of the virus which most certainly erupted from the Chinese city of Wuhan most nations have taken a hard stance against China. Recent Chinese crackdown on the democratic institutions of Hong Kong by introducing a new security law which curbs the freedoms guaranteed to the people of the semi-autonomous city of Hong-Kong has invited the displeasure and criticism of the western nations (Berlin’s criticism was negligible) most notably the US and the UK; unlike the Germans the other western nations have also criticised the recent Chinese clampdown on the Uighur Muslims in the Chinese region of Xinjiang. But the last issue is something Berlin cannot ignore especially with the introduction of world-wide condemnation against Chinese atrocities against the Uighur. Pressure has been mounting on Merkel both in the domestic and international sphere to condemn Chinese aggressive policies both against their people, the spread of debt and political influence through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and their apparent military build-up in the South China Sea. But the recent hard stance taken by Merkel’s administration against China has not surprised some analysts as just last year the European Union where Germany has immense influence and standing declared China to be a systematic rival. Germany has now decided to focus on maintaining stronger partnerships with democratic countries in the India-Pacific region. Such an action may also lead to Berlin’s diplomatic recognition of Taiwan thus abandoning their long-term policy of ‘One-China-Policy’ which did not allow for the official recognition of Taiwan. Such an action will surely make Beijing furious.

To show Germany’s commitment towards their change of plans in the Indo-Pacific region Berlin has recently published a 70-page guideline for their ministries. It promotes multilateralism and urges NATO to expand ties with Japan and South Korea. It calls for the hasty conclusion of free trade agreements with countries like Australia and Indonesia and pledges to expand regional sustainable infrastructure initiatives. To this effect German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass had reiterated in an official statement that Germany wishes to shape the future global order that is based on rules and international cooperation and not on the law of the strong. That is why they had plans to intensify cooperation with those countries that shared Germanys democratic and liberal values. With the ever growing stance against China in the form of the Indo-Pacific bloc Germany hopes not to lose out in a leadership position in the West and is willing to risk its economic gain in trade with China as China has also recently held German companies and firms in China under a stranglehold which happens to be last straw for German law makers including many of those in Merkel’s party thus signifying the recent change of German policy towards China a country which German Chancellor Angela Merkel hoped to find to find to be an ally for German interests in Asia.

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