Episode 05: Transatlantic Relations and the Evolving View of China
China has represented opportunity—both geopolitical and economic—since its dramatic openings in the 1970s. There are, of course, the opportunities for China itself: hundreds of millions of people have escaped poverty as a result of economic growth in the forty years since reforms began in 1979. American, German, and other Western companies benefited from these reforms as well, investing hundreds of billions of dollars in the Chinese economy.
There have also been other, more elusive, opportunities, including change in the Chinese political and economic systems: more open, a stronger rule of law, and a more constructive Chinese role in international affairs. This was the hope that China would become a “responsible stakeholder” in the world and see its interest in preserving and expanding the open, liberal order.
Today, the Chinese state is reasserting its preeminent role and Beijing is pursuing an ambitious foreign policy and a strengthened military capacity such that the United States now describes China as a “near-peer competitor.” It includes the massive Belt and Road Initiative, with pledges of $1 trillion in Chinese money for infrastructure and transportation investment to bring Chinese goods to the world. Annual Chinese outward investment now exceeds foreign investment in China.
The changing Chinese economic and political role has been raising concerns in Europe (as in the U.S.) and European countries have been instituting stricter screening of Chinese investments in strategic sectors, while also fighting back against Chinese state subsidies and the continuing problems of intellectual property theft and technology transfer. Against that backdrop, a new set of 54 recommendations by the Federation of German Industry, which represents 35 different German economic sectors, describes China as a “systemic competitor” and calls for German and European leaders to rise to this challenge through stronger measures at home and internationally.
In this episode of The Zeitgeist, Jeff Rathke and Peter Rashish talk with Stefan Mair, a member of the board of the Federation of German Industry, to discuss the evolving German view toward China, and what it means for cooperation at the European level and with the United States.
Jeff Rathke, President, AICGS
Recent AICGS publications on China
Support for this episode is provided in part by the Steven Muller New Initiatives Fund.