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Merkel wakes up to dragon’s savagery

Merkel wakes up to dragon’s savagery

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s warning to Beijing regarding market access and her comments about the “horrible treatment of minority rights” should be seen as hardening of the European stance against China.

“If there is no market access from the Chinese side for certain areas, this will of course also be reflected in the fact that market access to the European market will be narrower,” the <em>South China Morning Post</em> (SCMP) quoted Merkel as saying.

More damagingly (from China’s perspective), she expressed her indignation “at the ways in which artificial intelligence is used in China.” The German Chancellor went on to say, “We have pointed out we are deeply concerned about the development in Hong Kong, where the ‘one country, two systems’ principle is being increasingly undermined. We are going to keep addressing that, just as we do on the dreadful and often horrible treatment of minority rights in China.”

To be sure, this is a case of too little too late. For too long, Merkel and her ministers have been following the change-through-trade policy. It seems to be German variant of our own Panchsheel fantasy: just like we Jawaharlal Nehru and the subsequent prime ministers were convinced that sermonizing with Chinese leaders make the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) bosses human, the German Chancellor harbored delusions about the stupendous—and benign—powers of trade.

As late as mid-July this year, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier insisted on this policy: “I have always been convinced and I still believe that change can be achieved through trade.” To buttress his assertion, he cited West Germany’s previous engagement approach toward Eastern Europe.

The comparison is preposterous, for Eastern Europe nations were fed up with communism and the overbearing clasp of the erstwhile Soviet Union; in fact, even the Soviet Union was in no mood to continue with communism, as evident from Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika. The change happened because Eastern Europeans wanted change.

Xi Jinping’s China, on the other hand, has no intention of changing its ways; it continues to suppress Uighurs and Tibetans, use repression against the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, terrorize Taiwan, fight India in Ladakh, support the rogue states of Pakistan and North Korea, shield terrorists, trade in human organs, and refuse to share critical information about the novel coronavirus with other countries.

Worse, there is no evidence to suggest that Xi and other CCP thugs are going to mend their ways. In an excellent <a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/09/15/china-merkel-trade-germany-failure-covid-19/">article</a> in Foreign Policy, Andreas Fulda, a senior fellow at the University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute, “Not a day goes by without reports about the CCP’s genocide against the Uighurs. That should matter in a country where ‘never again’ is a mainstream value. Hong Kong’s courageous democracy movement has been suppressed with the help of a draconian so-called national security law. Chinese President Xi Jinping has threatened liberal democratic Taiwan with military annexation. And despite clear evidence of the CCP’s authoritarian brutalities, Merkel is unwilling to make even cosmetic changes to Germany’s mercantilist approach to China.”

Fulda pointed out that Merkel’s unwillingness to take a hard stance against China is the consequence of “outsourcing foreign policy” to the private sector. This has resulted in the corporate propaganda looming large in the German public discourse about China. “To justify trade and investments with an authoritarian China, corporate lobbyists have for decades hyped the significance of the Chinese market for Germany’s traditionally export-oriented economy.”

The lobbyists have overhyped the importance of trade with China. “It is rather ironic that government statistics reveal that in 2018 China only ranked third (7.1 per cent), after the United States (8.7 per cent) and Europe (68.5 per cent) in Germany’s overall exports. As is so often, the promise of a largely illusory Chinese market has outweighed the reality,” Fulda wrote.

This happens when capitalist countries give credence to the views of the enemies of capitalism, when leaders of democracies start (erroneously) believing that profit-maximization is the solitary goal, indeed the summum bonum, of human existence. But this is patently wrong, for capitalism is not about—as Leftist intellectuals have been saying for decades—‘exploitation.’ It is about freedom—for the buyers and sellers of goods and services. And this is possible when they enjoy freedom in every sense of the word.

Economic freedom cannot be divorced from political freedom, from individual liberty and civil rights. Businesspersons in free nations fattening on slave labor in countries like China is immoral; and immorality is consequences. The entire world is suffering from those consequences, the consequences of mollycoddling a ferocious dragon, of letting it become stronger and more iniquitous and insolent.

Thankfully, leaders like Merkel are realizing their folly. It is time they acted on this realization. The sooner, the better..