Axios: Top German Official Hushed up Report on China’s Influence in 2018, Fearing It Would Damage Business Ties with China.

An “unnamed” senior Government official hushed up an Intelligence report on China’s growing influence in Germany, Axios reported.


The Intelligence report detailed the Chinese Communist Government’s attempt to influence Germany holistically. After investing in hundreds of German firms, China seems to have big plans for Germany.


Why was it hushed?

Mutual economic development between China and the EU, of which Germany is a huge part, is vital to both the countries. The report could throw a harsh light on trade ties between German businesses and the Chinese government. Before that could happen, a high-ranking official interfered. Axios notes that Merkel did see the report that was hidden by a German official, and there seems to be more than one reason why Merkel chose to keep silent on the matter.


According to one of Germany’s ambassadors to China, they needed to hush up the report because they could foresee a tension that could arise between the two countries. Since Germany greatly depends on China for exports, the suppressing of the report became essential. Therefore, German officials refused to comment on matters concerning intelligence reports to Axios.


China-German Trade Relations



More than 16% of the EU’s population lives and works in Germany, and its geographical location makes it an economic centre of Europe. Germany is the biggest contributor to the European Union, which is why China’s collaboration with Germany becomes vital. Since 2016, investments between China and Germany have been growing, and a cordial rapport is building between the two.


Economic factors driving Germans towards China

“The Chinese Communist Party succeeded in globalizing its economy because it was able to join itself to foreign business interests,” said Volker Stanzel, a former German ambassador to China. BBC noted German’s tightening of rules regarding foreign investment at the end of 2017. German’s biggest concern, at that time, was the increasing influence of Chinese companies in European economies using foreign investments. However, the scenario seemed to change in 2018.


Stanzel also said, later, in an interview with Axios, “Germany depends on exports to a high degree, and that gives the business a large influence. Business representatives talk to the government and are used to being listened to.”





Germany’s Deutsche Telekom depends largely on Huawei. According to an article in The Economists, “It has lobbied strongly against any action that would make it harder for it to roll out 5G. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, often eager to defend the interests of the German industry, has backed the firm.”


Another article published in Politico notes, “Germany’s big industrial companies – including engineering behemoth Siemens, car giant Volkswagen and chemical maker, BASF – were among the first western companies to make big bets on China in the 1980s.” The handshake, it seems, is firm from both ends.


China has been trying to acquire more companies in Germany. Similarly, German companies like BMW are doing wonders in China. The cordial relationship, undisturbed by the Intelligence report of 2018, was furthered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Beijing to meet Chinese Premier, Li Kequiang. The European Union and progressives in Germany took her visit to Beijing with a pinch of salt.


German Chancellor’s take on it




An article published in The Economist talks about Merkel’s soft spot for China. It notes, “In the 15 years since she took over as chancellor in 2005, German exports to China have quintupled, to just under €100bn ($110bn), about 3% of GDP.”


The Chancellor, as the article notes, has been diplomatic on China’s detriment of human rights concerns in Hong Kong. It would be false to say that the German Chancellor does not support or address human rights issues that have been emerging in China, especially the ones raging in Tibet. Her comments on the same are observed occasionally, but they don’t concern any ideas relating to a halt on the two countries’ business relations.


In fact, it seems that Germany’s elites have been bought into Chinese Communist propaganda. In this regard, Politico notes a statement by a German elite by the name Jurgen Heraeus says, “We can’t judge the Chinese according to our standard of values, or our cultural or humanistic ideals.” According to the German elites, the Chinese function differently and have different ideas about life and death.


What’s the outcome?

The 2018 report landed at a crucial time when China and Germany were furthering their benefits through trade relations. Therefore, it became essential for the German government to hush up the report, fearing it would damage the new business ties with China. Progressives have now criticised the business-first approach, and German businesses are ready to give it up.


An expert on Europe-China relations, Noah Barkin, said in an interview with Axios, “Germany has traditionally viewed China through an economic prism, not a security prism. That has really begun to change this year. Germans are coming to the realisation that they need to establish red lines, that they need to push China more forcefully, and they need to emphasise human rights.”


What changed?



  • Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, was accosted with fingers pointing at China’s suppression in Hong Kong, mass internment camps, and concerns about Huawei, on her recent five-nation tour of Europe.


  • The international assault on human rights, growing from Belarus to Hong Kong to Yemen, raged the EU and pushed it to take severe steps against the “kleptocrats” and “state abusers” by directly hitting their assets.


  • The European Union re-established its authority as the world’s largest “single market area” and the paramount propagator of democratic values and rights.


  • European Union President, Ursula Von der Leyen, announced that she would push for the long-debated European Magnitsky Act. It’s a sanctions’ regime, built on the United States’ framework that intends to punish officials that violate human rights. The act is an asset-attacking sanctions law.


Experts on Europe-China note that the Magnitsky Act could be ineffective in extracting loopholes in the global financial system, especially those concerning money laundering. Besides, doubts regarding the EU’s standing up against Chinese’ violation of human rights still hover in the minds of diplomats and experts.





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