China warns new German govt not to interfere with its 'internal affairs' including Taiwan

After the German coalition government included remarks on Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan in a strong-worded agreement.

Jean Chien Tay | November 26, 2021, 03:54 PM

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China has warned Germany's new coalition government against interfering in its "internal affairs", such as matters related to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang.

Beijing also reportedly hinted that relations between Germany and China could be damaged unless Berlin follows the "one China policy", under which Taiwan is part of Chinese territory.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said during a press conference on Nov. 25 that China hopes that the new government will keep to the policy, respect China’s core interest, and safeguard the political foundation for bilateral relation. 

Chinese state-controlled media Global Times (GT) said China was mentioned "more than a dozen times" in the new administration's 177-page coalition agreement, and human rights issues in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan were mentioned as well.

Strong language in coalition agreement

China's warning came after the incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a government programme that used stronger language than expected to call out China on its human rights record, and to relax its policy towards Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to Bloomberg.

Scholz was named as Germany's new chancellor after his party -- the Social Democratic Party -- joined forces with the Greens party and the Free Democratic Party to form a three-party coalition government, the BBC reported.

According to the Financial Times (FT), the Greens perceive outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel's approach towards China as "too soft", and opined that she did not speak out strongly enough on the issues of Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

Potential partner, competitor, and systemic rival

While the three parties' coalition agreement states that China is a potential partner, it also considers the country to be a competitor and systemic rival, according to FT.

The agreement further stressed that any change to Taiwan's status must be done "peacefully and with mutual consent", and territorial disputes in the South China Sea must be resolved based on international maritime law.

It also outlined Germany's expectations for China to play a "responsible role for peace and stability in its neighbourhood".

Additionally, Germany will work together with like-minded countries to "reduce strategic dependencies", and will closely co-ordinate their China policy with the U.S.

According to Bloomberg, the agreement called on China to maintain the "one country, two systems" principle in Hong Kong, and highlighted human rights concerns in Xinjiang.

As part of Germany's Indo-Pacific strategy, plans to build relations with democracies like Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India were also announced in the agreement.

"Nervousness among Chinese diplomats"

Noah Barkin, the Managing Editor at consultancy firm Rhodium group, told FT that the language on China in the agreement is the "strongest ever to appear in a German coalition agreement".

A former bureau chief at Reuters, Barkin added that Merkel's departure and the Green Party's entry into government have caused a lot of nervousness among Chinese diplomats.

"They (Chinese diplomats) know that if the new government adopts a harder line, Europe will follow", he said.

Meanwhile, the director of the Asia programme at the European Council of Foreign Relations -- Janka Oertel -- said the change in tone from Berlin is "striking", adding that it was a "much needed reality adjustment".

"Exciting times ahead in Germany‘s foreign policy future," Oertel added.

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Top image via Tobias Schwartz/AFP/Getty & Chinese Embassy in Germany