German Ex-Chancellor Schroeder to Attend Olympics Opening | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 16.07.2008
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German Ex-Chancellor Schroeder to Attend Olympics Opening

Gerhard Schroeder has said he will attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing on Aug. 8. He said it was important to show China "respect" and promote dialog with the country.

Schroeder looks at a Chinese person visible inside the mouth of a dragon mask the latter is wearing

Schroeder thinks the West should face China rather than turn away from it

"Of all the European countries, Germany can have the most influence in China," the former chancellor wrote in an article for the German weekly Die Zeit.

But that would be accomplished, he continued, through trust and cooperation, not though public denunciations of the country.

"My impression is that here in Germany we do not use all the possibilities we have to contribute to China's opening and modernization," he wrote.

Schroeder said the Olympic Games should be viewed as a chance to overcome the old "friend-enemy" paradigm and that China hoped to gain from the event international recognition of the success it's seen thus far in its attempts at modernization.

"We should pay the country respect," he wrote.

To attend or not to attend

China's crackdown on pro-Tibet protesters made some leaders reconsider their plans for the Olympics

China's crackdown on pro-Tibet protesters made some leaders reconsider their plans for the Olympics

The question of attendance of world leaders, past and present, at the opening games in Beijing in August became controversial after China's crackdown on pro-Tibet demonstrators in March that caused international outrage. There was speculation that many leaders would shun the event in protest.

Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have said they will not attend the Olympics opening.

But French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced this month that he would attend the ceremony, despite an earlier threat to boycott the event.

Sarkozy joins US President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda among those attending the opening ceremony, in an indication that leaders of the world's richest countries see a boycott as a useless gesture. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on July 7 that he is also "leaning toward going.''

Human rights 'rituals'

In the newspaper article, Schroeder also criticized "rituals" regarding human rights. He said that as chancellor, he had dispensed with "ritualized and symbolic activities that were only aimed at the German public."

Schroeder and Putin

Gerhard Schroeder has a close relationship with Russia's Putin

"They might be appropriate for NGOs, but for international relations and those responsible for foreign policy, they are not," he said.

He said that as chancellor, he had made it a priority to support the Chinese government in its modernization process. But, he added, not in the sense of providing instruction, but giving support for the process of building a society based on the rule of law.

Schroeder, who visited China six times and Russia 15 times as chancellor from 1998 to 2005, never spoke publicly about human rights.

Schroeder had special criticism for Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU bloc of German conservatives in parliament for their new strategy paper on Asia which calls for a break with the current China policy. The former chancellor said the paper had caused "a great deal of damage on the foreign-policy front" for its "aggressive anti-Chinese rhetoric" and that it had irritated Chinese leaders and many in the society at large.

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