So far, Beijing knows better than to support Russia too overtly with concrete measures. It is likely to try and remain in a gray zone that allows it to support Putin, but not to the detriment of its relations with the West.
Beijing’s gray zone geopolitics are being underestimated. Already, Germany is finding it difficult to look at the world through a purely geopolitical lens. In a recent German TV appearance, Chancellor Scholz stated that "what really scared [him] is this incredible emphasis on geopolitics in the thinking of the Russian president".
There should be no illusion that this emphasis on geopolitics is not also integral to the thinking of the Chinese president.
In this context, before devising a China strategy, Berlin should find answers to a number of fundamental questions: What world are we living in? What is the geopolitical nature of the 21st century? And what strategic consequences do we need to draw from Russia’s war in Ukraine? Then, it should ask itself how China would answer these questions.
The formulation of a first-ever German National Security Strategy, which will precede the China strategy, should provide an opportunity to ask those questions and arrive at a common analysis. Ideally, it should form the basis on which the specifics of Germany’s new strategy towards China should coalesce.
For now, Germany’s policy towards China remains rudderless on uncharted waters. The coming months will shape its contours as different actors with different agendas vie to become determinants. Whether this strategy will have a strong foundation with the necessary analytical underpinnings will depend on how Berlin sees the development of the world order, and how this is reflected in its national security strategy.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone.
Copyright: JOHANNES EISELE / AFP
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