Posts tagged ‘Central Asia’

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

German Chancellor’s first China Visit: Opportunities and Liabilities

It is going to be the first visit to China for German chancellor Olaf Scholz who took office late last year with a three-party coalition (SPD, Greens, and FDP).

On Friday (November 4), he is scheduled to meet “President” Xi Jinping, according to his office’s website, and following that, a meeting his planned with him and Li Keqiang, his actual colleague as head of a government. Bilateral relations, international topics such as climate change, Russia’s “war of aggression” against Ukraine and the situation in the east Asian region are said to be on the agenda. “Federal Chancellor Scholz will be accompanied by a business delegation during his visit”, the office’s statement concludes.

dongnanweishi_scholz_and_companies
Not everybody’s first visit
Shanghai’s “Jiefang Daily” suggests*) that

many European companies have experienced serious economic problems this year, because of the energy crisis, high inflation, rising interest rates and problems like the economic slowdown. It is crucial for these European companies to make up for these losses in Europe by profiting from the Chinese market. Brudermüller for example, CEO at Germany’s chemical giant BASF, plans to further expand BASF’s “favorable investments” in China. It’s business report shows that unlike in Europe, results in China have been positive.
欧洲很多企业今年以来由于能源危机、高通胀、利率上升和经济放缓等遭遇严重经营困难。对这些欧洲企业来说,用中国市场的收益弥补在欧洲的亏损至关重要。比如德国化工巨头巴斯夫集团首席执行官薄睦乐就打算进一步扩大巴斯夫在中国的“有利投资”。业绩报告显示,与在欧洲的亏损不同,巴斯夫集团在中国的增长一直是正向的。


Michelin’s business report, said to have been published on October 25, also shows rapidly rising sales in China, in contrast with an eight-percent drop in Europe, “Jiefang Daily” reports.

Michelin’s handsome China numbers notwithstanding, the “Global Times”, a Chinese paper for a foreign readership, blames a “sour-grape” mentality for France’s differences with Germany’s China policy. Those differences probably exist, with Paris being more skeptical about Chinese “opportunities” than Berlin, but you might consider Germany’s dependence on Chinese export markets as a liability, rather than as an opportunity, just as well.

While the SPD remains highly cooperative when it comes to China business, both its coalition partners have advised caution. And while it may be difficult to forecast a trend of future German investment in, exports to and supply chain connections with China, there are statements from German business circles you wouldn’t have heard a few years ago.

China itself rather bets on protectionism, but wants to get into the act globally, including in Germany (China setzt selbst eher auf Abschottung, will aber überall in der Welt mehr mitmischen, auch bei uns in Deutschland),

German weekly “Focus” quotes Martin Wansleben, head of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce.  Scholz should champion clear-cut rules.
It isn’t only France that is concerned about Germany’s economic dependence on China. “Voice of America’s” (VoA) Chinese service, too, points out that “the West shows growing concern about Chinese trade practices and its human rights record”, as well as unease about “Germany’s dependence on the world’s second-largest economic body” (对德国对中国这个世界第二大经济体的依赖感到不安).

VoA also quotes a German government spokesman as saying that while Berlin’s view on China had changed, “decoupling” from China was opposed by Berlin.

When you keep pressing people for a while, the main problem appears to be China’s aggressive policy against Taiwan. Most Germans (this blogger included) never expected that Russia would really invade Ukraine. Now that this has happened, peoples’ imagination has become somewhat more animated – and realistic.

The Social Democrats are more skeptical than its middle- and upper-class coalition partners when it comes to the West’s human-rights agenda, and rightly so. (If China put all its SOEs on international sale, you wouldn’t hear a word about the Uyghurs from Western governments anymore.)

But the Russian-Chinese alliance is a fact, and so is that alliance’s preparedness to annex third countries. That is something the Social Dems can’t ignore. If the press, the oppositional CDU/CSU and the SPD’s coalition partners statements are something to go by, the tide of German integration with China’s economy is being reversed.

“Nothing speaks against German SMEs continuing to import their special nuts and bolts from China”, a columnist mused on German news platform t-online last week, but not without a backup source.

China’s propaganda doesn’t look at Scholz’ visit in a way isolated from its other global contacts. In fact, the German visitor is mentioned in a row with General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyễn Phú Trọng, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan – all of them bearing testimony, or so the propaganda suggests, of how attractive “Chinese opportunities” (中国机遇) actually are.

But Germany’s dependence on China, while worrying and in need to be cut back substantively, shouldn’t be viewed in an isolated way either. Scholz visit won’t even last for a full day, without an overnight stay, and also in November, Scholz will travel to Vietnam. Statistics appear to suggest that German industry will find backup sources there – if not first sources just as well.

And Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister and one of the leaders of the SPD’s China-skeptic Green coalition partner, is currently travelling Central Asia. All the countries there “once hoped to be a bridge between Russia, China, and Europe,” German broadcaster NTV quotes her – the European Union needed to provide Central Asia with opportunities. Options beyond Russia and China, that is.

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Notes

*) “Jiefang” actually “quotes foreign media”, but Chinese propaganda is often very creative in doing so – therefore no names here.

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Friday, May 6, 2022

Central Asia: Russia’s Restive “Bulk” of Allies

Links within blockquotes added during translation.

In another bid to prove his president’s claim to the global public that you can’t isolate Russia, Russian foreign minister Lavrov wrote in a signed article for Rossiyskaya Gazeta that Russia could see its trade with Central Asia growing dynamically despite “the turbulent geopolitical situation”, and that “the bulk” of Central Asian countries were Russia’s allies.

There’s probably a need to emphasize that, although the Russian government-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta may not be an ideal communication channel to the Central Asian public.

QSL card from Radio Tashkent, December 1985

That was long ago: a QSL card
from Radio Tashkent, December 1985

But then, security issues aren’t only Russia’s issue. Its allied “bulk” is worried about Moscow’s miltary rampage in Ukraine, and China’s relations with Central Asia may become affected, too.

“Due to its size and geography, China’s role [in Central Asia] will grow [following the war], but the SCO won’t have many success stories to point to”,

RFA/RL quotes Temur Umarov, a fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

“Beijing is also now seen as a supporter of Russia and as a country that isn’t doing much to restrain Moscow when many [SCO members] are seeing it as a potential threat.”

Pengpai News (“The Paper”, Shanghai), by no means a natural critic of Russia, suggested in an article on April 25 that

Since Russia started its “special military operation” againly been upped further, and their immediate and long-term political and economic effects are slowly emerging. In the five Central Asian countries that once belonged to the Soviet region, the Russian-Ukrainian state of affairs has given rise to worries, with their approach becoming more and more subtle.

在刚刚经历过“一月政变”的哈萨克斯坦,从总统托卡耶夫到外交部长和国防部长都在公开表态中与莫斯科保持了一定的距离。哈官方承诺不会成为帮助俄罗斯规避西方制裁的工具,并接待了专程到访的美国副国务卿,两国还宣布拟扩大高水平战略伙伴关系。

Kazakhstan’s regime, despite Russian military dispatches to quell demonstrations against the Tokayev regime only weeks earlier,

officially promised not to become a tool that would help Russia in evading the West’s sanctions, and received a US deputy secretary of state’s special visit. The two countries announced that they would broaden their high-level strategic partnership.

哈官方承诺不会成为帮助俄罗斯规避西方制裁的工具,并接待了专程到访的美国副国务卿,两国还宣布拟扩大高水平战略伙伴关系。

Timur Suleimenov, first deputy chief of Kazakhstan’s Executive Office, is quoted by Pengpai News as saying that his country, while a member of the Eurasian Economic Union,

we are also a member of the international community. We do not want America and the European Union to impose secondary sanctions on Kazakhstan, therefore we have to prove to our European partners that Kazakhstan will not become a tool for Russia to evade America’s and the EU’s sanctions. We will abide by the sanctions.”

“虽然我们和俄罗斯、白俄罗斯一样,是欧亚经济联盟成员,但我们也是国际社会的一员,我们不希望美国和欧盟对哈萨克斯坦实施二级制裁,因此我们必须向欧洲的伙伴证明,哈萨克斯坦不会成为俄罗斯规避美国和欧盟制裁的工具。我们将遵守制裁。”

Kazakhstan’s president, having just been protected from his own people by Russian troops,

presented, in his State of the Nation address on March 16, an entire set of reform plans, and acknowledged frankly that the Russian-Ukrainian state of affairs had made the importance of national independence obvious. He promised to carry out comprehensive political reform.

托卡耶夫在最近一次于3月16日所作的国情咨文中拿出了一整套改革方案,他坦言眼前的俄乌局势凸显了国家独立重要性,并承诺进行全面政治改革。

Uzbekistan is quoted as even telling Russia to stop its “aggressive” behavior (停止“侵略”行为). To find a peaceful solution, Uzbekistan’s foreign minister Abdulaziz Kamilov is quoted,

“We support the search for a peaceful solution to this state of affairs, and a solution to this conflict by political and diplomatic means”. For this, “(Russia) must first end military activity and its invasion.”

“我们支持寻求和平解决这一局势,并通过政治和外交手段解决这一冲突”。为此,“(俄罗斯)首先必须结束军事活动和侵略”。

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan who are more dependent on Russia, and who have Russian military bases within their borders, kept “prudently silent” after the launch of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. To offset the return of many of its migrant workers from Russia, however, Kyrgyzstan negotiated with South Korea and Turkey, apparently to find work for its citizens there, and asked Turkey to ease visa restrictions on migrant workers.

The fallout, according to Pengpai News, is there: Both Kazakhtan and Uzbekistan are drawing closer to America. Even Russians flee to Uzbekistan, the Pengpai article says, to avoid military service in Russia. And Uzbek nationals have been warned by their government that they could face five years in prison if they serve in Russia’s military.

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