Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sino-German relations back on stable mode but it will not be as rosy as before

Recently, the secret meeting between German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the Chinese Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi has moved the bilateral relations to a stable mode rather than the tumultuous 5-month period following the official meeting between the current German Chancellor and the Dalai Lama in Berlin.

The September’s meeting with the religious figure, revered especially by the Western governments and also in particular the Western media, by the German Chancellor has resulted in the immediate fallout in relations by the cancellations of various high level meetings with China.

Underlying the close economic tie-ups, the Chinese, being practical, have however not created any unreasonable hindrance to the business to business engagements and the trade flow between the two countries. In 2007, German exports to China amounted to US$40.3 billion, making Germany China's biggest EU trading partner. Direct German investment amounted to US$20 billion.

The Dalai Lama is a dissident figure from Tibet with separatist intent. Tibet is a province now under the administration of China as an autonomous region and is largely recognized as part of the People Republic of China by the more than 150 nations under the UN banner. The Western media and certain Hollywood celebrities choose to highlight the perceived predicament of the Tibetan people, which mostly are inaccurate and as such, such views and opinions are largely ignored by the majority of the Han Chinese and the overseas Chinese as well. I wondered how the string of countries-type awards and honors to the Dalai Lama will do to the Tibetan so-called plight when even the Nobel Peace Prize cannot change the position of the Chinese government.

The affirmation by the German Foreign Ministry that Berlin supported the one-China Policy that stipulates Taiwan and Tibet as part of China will go a long way to move the relations to a more stable plane but there are still significant disagreements between China’s viewpoints with that of the present German Chancellor stubborn stance on human rights and the support given to dissidents.

The need to promote good and friendly ties between the two countries were largely due to the added pressure from the German’s business community and the political importance of having China’s support to resolve the outstanding Iran’s nuclear program coupled with China’s active participation in meeting the global environmental challenges. France and United Kingdom current aggressive business partnerships with Beijing, stressing less on western standards human rights compliance, could probably prompted the German Administration to follow the same direction. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, two bodies critical of China, are not at all pleased.

Mutual trust and respect in any country diplomacy are built over a reasonable timeframe with good working relationship. With the present German’s Chancellor inability to view the beneficial win-win perspective on a grander scale, it will just take another of such unexpected and wishful meeting with dissidents to put the relations back on the rock.

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