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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

It's Principles vs. Profits in Dealing With China

December 19, 2007

Chosun Ilbo, South Korea
December 17, 2007

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's principled diplomacy vis-a-vis China
has become a hot topic among diplomatic circles in Hong Kong and Beijing
in recent days. Merkel, an advocate of the so-called "value-oriented
diplomacy" which attaches prime importance to human rights and freedom,
met with Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama who is the spiritual leader
of Tibet, in her office in September. AFP reported that "Merkel signaled
that she supported the Dalai Lama's quest for cultural autonomy for the
Himalayan region, sticking to the course she steered during a visit to
China in August in which she readily tackled human rights issues."

German opposition leaders and former government officials had met with
the Dalai Lama before, but this was the first time an incumbent German
chancellor had ever officially sat down with him. The enraged Chinese
government has continued indiscriminate "retaliatory offensives" against
Germany over the past three months. China has canceled two high-level
bilateral talks, one on economics and trade, the other on human rights,
and it bailed out of bilateral finance ministers' talks scheduled for
early December in Beijing.

"Bilateral relations can be improved if Germany admits its mistake,"
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said pointedly on Nov. 28. But in an
interview with the German press, Merkel countered Wen's threat by saying
determinedly, "As the chancellor of Germany, I will decide on whom to
meet and where. I can't give up my own principles for a trade
relationship with China."

Merkel's principled policies have put into circulation a few
newly-coined terms, such as the "Merkel cost" and "new Sino-German Cold
War." Relations between Germany and China are frozen solid.

Interestingly, despite some worries that her efforts might have ill
effects on the German economy, many experts have a positive view of
Merkel's tenacious diplomacy. "In the long term it will prove beneficial
to the German people and future German leaders," said Judy Dempsey, a
political commentator.

Merkel is winning support for her diplomatic style, which stands in
sharp contrast to the way other world leaders go to great efforts to
avoid any conflict with China. Many experts attribute the strength of
Merkel's diplomacy to the rock-solid political foundation she has laid
-- it didn't come for free.

First of all, she restored Germany's traditional alliance with the U.S.,
the world's sole superpower. German relations under Merkel's predecessor
Gerhard Schröder were quite rocky. Unlike Schröder, Merkel has
placed top priority on her country's practical relations with the U.S.
In her two years in office, Merkel has met with U.S. President George W.
Bush seven times. In early November she was invited to Bush's ranch in
Crawford, Texas, a first for the German chancellor. Under Merkel's
stewardship, U.S.-German relations have been at a peak.

In addition, Germany has been successful in finding an alternative to
China in Asia. In late October, Merkel visited India, where she met with
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. At that summit, she agreed with
Singh on a strategic cooperative relationship between the two countries.
An alarmed press in China and Hong Kong said Germany has clasped hands
with India to get ahead of China.

Lastly, Germany has an economic and technological prowess with which it
can outperform China. This year Germany will be overtaken by China and
slide down to fourth among world nations in terms of GDP. But Germany
has been awarded 15 times more patents and has spent 2.3 times more on
R&D than China this year, according to OECD statistics. The Germans will
also likely enjoy 14 times as much per capita income as the Chinese in
2008 as in 2007.

And what about South Korean-Chinese relations? Fifteen years after the
establishment of ties with China, South Korea leads the world in
investment in China and the number of students studying there, and it is
concentrating more on China than ever before. But unlike the German
case, South Korean politicians and diplomats are always trying to curry
favor with China. In order to prepare for possible conflicts of
interest, perhaps it's time we took a lesson from Merkel's successful
diplomatic approach to China.
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