On Thursday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock traveled to China to speak with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang in the wake of French President Emmanuel Macron’s statements during his trip to China in early April.
According to Reuters, Baerbock’s main goal on her diplomatic mission is to “reassert a common European Union policy toward Beijing” after Macron suggested that the EU was not unified in their stance on China’s activity in the Taiwan Strait. Macron’s visit occurred amidst China’s “war games,” which simulated strikes on Taiwan from both the air and the sea. While the official games ended on April 10, eight Chinese vessels were reported to be operating around Taiwan as of Thursday. China’s military drills started up after Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen visited Latin America and stopped in the U.S. to meet with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, an act that enforced China’s view of Taiwan as “separatist,” according to Al Jazeera.
Ever since the Republic of China government relocated to Taiwan in 1949, it has exercised autonomy over Taiwan. However, the mainland People’s Republic of China still considers Taiwan to be a part of China. After nearly eighty decades of tensions in the Taiwan Strait, there now stands a fragile balance. This balance could be disrupted at any time by a Chinese strike on Taiwan, something that many countries in the Western hemisphere want to avoid for economic reasons. However, according to Politico, during Macron’s visit to Beijing he stated that in terms of intervening in the tensions between China and Taiwan, Europe should not take the “cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction,” and instead remain something of a middle man in the conflict.
These statements caused outrage among many European Union members, including Annalena Baerbock, who see one of Xi Jinping’s main goals to be dismantling unity in the Western Hemisphere. According to Politico Magazine, Germany and the rest of the EU care about Taiwan and stability in the region, and believe that China should contribute to de-escalation in the Taiwan Strait by refraining from aggressive activity.
During Baerbock’s time in Beijing, she emphasized three main points. First, according to The Guardian, she stated that any militaristic confrontation in Taiwan would “have consequences for all countries, the global economy, and Germany, too.” Second, both foreign ministers emphasized the importance of Germany’s economic ties with China. The German foreign minister added that, while Germany has “no interest in economic decoupling… we must take a more systematic look at the risks of one-sided dependencies and reduce them,” according to Reuters. Finally, Baerbock reminded China of its “responsibility to influence Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine.”
Baerbock’s visit to China went overall as expected. She outlined the points that she was expected to outline, criticizing Macron’s earlier comments suggesting EU non-intervention in any conflict between China and Taiwan. Baerbock presented a clear and unified EU, with the common goal of continued economic cooperation with China but a zero-tolerance policy for any change in the status-quo in the Taiwan Strait, according to The Economist.