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Germany: EU 'cannot be indifferent' to China-Taiwan tensions

April 13, 2023

Germany's Annalena Baerbock is the latest top European politician to visit China after landing in Tianjin. She said an escalation between China and Taiwan would be a "worst-case scenario" for Germany and the EU.

Annalena Baerbock disembarking a plane
Annalena Baerbock kicked off her China visit in the port city of TianjinImage: Soeren Stache/dpa/picture alliance

Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock arrived in the Chinese port city of Tianjin on Thursday to begin her three-day tour of the country.

The diplomatic trip comes amid increased Chinese military maneuvers around Taiwan, which the German Foreign Ministry condemned on Wednesday, and in the wake of China's renewed support for Russia after the invasion of Ukraine.

On Thursday, Baerbock is set to visit a school in Tianjin that teaches German as part of the German Foreign Office's PASCH initiative. She will also visit a wind turbine factory owned by a German company.

Germany 'working to avert Taiwan escalation'

What did Baerbock say in Tianjin?

Baerbock warned against conflict in the Taiwan Strait, and the impact it would have on Germany and the EU.

"A military escalation in the Taiwan Strait ... would be a worst-case scenario globally and affect us as one of the biggest industrial nations in particular," she said.

"Fifty percent of global trade passes through the Taiwan Strait, 70% of semiconductors pass through the Taiwan Strait, so the free passage is in our economic interest as well," Baerbock said.

She said that the EU and Germany therefore "cannot be indifferent" to escalating tensions between China and Taiwan.

Baerbock's remarks appeared to temper those made by French President Emmanuel Macron whose comments on Europe's need to pursue its own policies on China and Taiwan rather than just following the US have landed him in hot water with allies in Washington.

The German foreign minister instead sought to underline Europe's unity with regards in particular to the bloc's economic policies towards China, saying that Macron had "once again emphasized that France's China policies reflected EU China policies one-to-one."

She said the strengths of the EU lay in the fact that "we are not only close to each other, but pursue joint strategic approaches on the central issues of our interests and values."

Tensions remain high between China and Taiwan

What else is on the agenda?

Baerbock is set to meet with China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Friday.

The two will take a high-speed train to Beijing, around 150 kilometers (93 miles) away.

In Beijing, Baerbock is set to meet with other top Chinese officials including Vice President Han Zheng and Wang Yi, the top Chinese foreign policy official and a former foreign minister.

"For our country, a lot depends on whether we succeed in properly balancing our future relationship with China," Baerbock said on Wednesday before departing Germany.

"Partner, competitor, systemic rival: That is the compass of European China policy. In which direction the needle will swing in the future depends in part on which path China chooses."

zc, ab/msh (dpa, Reuters)

Editor's note: This article has been updated to better reflect the context surrounding German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock's remarks concerning the Germany and the EU's stance on the China-Taiwan crisis.

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