Beijing has slammed EU Digital Economy Commisions Günter Oettinger for his derogatory remarks about Chinese diplomats. The controversy-prone politician has said his comments were taken out of context.
China criticized the "irritating feeling of superiority" displayed by some Western politicians on Wednesday. The comments from a foreign ministry spokeswoman were a response to the outrage caused by German EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger referring to a delegation of Chinese diplomats as "slant eyes."
In a somewhat restrained condemnation of the racial slur, Beijing said that it hoped Western leaders would "learn to see others as equal and treat them with respect."
Oettinger's comments garnered worldwide attention on Friday when a talk he had given in Hamburg was posted to YouTube. In the footage, Oettinger can also be heard saying of the Chinese diplomats: "Nine men, one party. No democracy. No women's quota, no women."
The European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society has been slammed for seeming to imply that women only attain top jobs because of preferential quotas. Oettigner responded by saying he was in fact criticizing misogyny in China.
Whatever his intention, it no doubt made Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel's tense trip to Beijing all the more uncomfortable.
'Compulsory gay marriage'
But it wasn't only the Chinese that Oettinger managed to insult in the video clip. The politician also mocked Germany's progressive social agenda, saying "compulsory gay marriage" would soon be introduced.
The 53-year-old Christian Democrat (CDU) is no stranger to political gaffes. In 2011, while serving as Commissioner for Energy, he described the situation in Fukushima, Japan as "an apocalypse." He also called fellow EU countries Romania, Bulgaria and Italy "ungovernable" at a public event, and once compared digital rights activists to the Taliban.
Oettinger also famously once bemoaned that "there is no war anymore" in Europe - to help weapons-producing nations get out of debt.
The commissioner is poised to become the EU finance chief when incumbent Kristalina Georgieva steps down. He downplayed the controversy in an interview with Die Welt newspaper, saying they were "casual remarks" and that he was not against gay marriage.
Berlin has stood behind Oettinger, with Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert saying "everyone has their own way of talking," although "in some passages it was most certainly not the style of the chancellor." Seibert also called Oettinger an "exceptionally [well] qualified" commissioner.
es/msh (dpa, Reuters)