Germany’s largest opposition group, the Christian Democrats, are distancing themselves from former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s stance on China. Draft policy papers suggest the CDU/CSU is looking to shift from practical trade-based cooperation towards possible confrontation with China. The conservatives cite China’s increased economic and political assertiveness, and stepping up the country’s response is “a certain new approach in China policy after a 16-year government period,” says CDU foreign policy lawmaker Johann Wadephul.
Current chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has echoed the shift in German security policy, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a catalyst for German re-assessment of China’s increasingly active role in challenging Western values. Scholz’s government cites a potential comprehensive China strategy, with two views between Foreign Affairs and Economy ministries on how it should be approached.
The Christian Democrats’ paper includes calls for a national consensus with Scholz’s government, which should be embedded into national security policy and the European approach to China. China is re-cast as a partner, competitor and systemic rival, reflecting statements from the European Union in 2019. Reciprocity and European and German sovereignty are key to the goals of the strategy, and the paper underlines it is neither pragmatic nor desirable to simply decouple from China.
Instead, the CDU/CSU proposes approaches built on resilience, alliances and partnerships with other interested parties, monitoring dependencies and deploying countermeasures wherever China seeks to compete. The paper includes plans to form a European China Council, stripping China of its near-monopoly on critical raw materials, and more vigorous cross-border commercial protection for German and European businesses against Chinese companies. This new stance represents a remarkable departure from the years of economic and political cooperation in Merkel’s time in power.