After Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, will the rules-based world order face the next brutal upheaval in Taiwan in the coming years? At least that’s what the US secret service, the CIA, is assuming. CIA chief William Burns recently warned that Russia’s setbacks in the war would not deter China from taking violent action against the island state. “The Chinese leadership is trying to learn lessons from the Russian invasion, but in our view that probably has less bearing on the question of whether China will use soldiers to control Taiwan in a few years, and more on how and when.” said Burns.
The traffic light coalition is already preparing for this scenario. “I’m very worried,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) on Deutschlandfunk at the weekend. At the same time, the Greens politician called for lessons to be learned from the policy of appeasement towards Russia and not to become similarly dependent again. “We must not make the same mistake again,” she warned.
The Foreign Minister referred to the new NATO strategy recently adopted in Madrid, which states: “The greatest threat to our direct security today is Russia, but China could become our greatest threat because they don’t just have military ambitions, but one economically play a completely different role worldwide.” The aim of the national German security strategy, which is currently being drawn up, is to “reduce our economic dependencies”, even if “not to end them completely” in a globalized world. As an example, she cited the production of medicines in Germany, which is “partially completely” dependent on active ingredients from China.
But how would Germany and its allies react to an attack on Taiwan? Would the much closer economic ties between Germany and the giant empire, compared to Russia, allow economic sanctions to be imposed? “It is perfectly clear that a military advance by the People’s Republic of China against Taiwan would not go unanswered,” says foreign policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, Nils Schmid.
This is one of the reasons why Beijing is watching the West’s reaction to the Russian war of aggression so closely: “Resilience is therefore important in two respects: on the one hand, to protect Ukraine’s independence and, on the other hand, as a deterrent to other authoritarian regimes in this world.”
In the opinion of FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai, in the event of an attack on Taiwan, the West must “react quickly and unified and sanction China harshly”. The sanctions to be imposed would then have to be “both personal and economic,” says the Liberal.
Germany’s economic dependence on China is “enormous”, says Djir-Sarai: “Therefore, any sanctions would not only affect China but also Europe and the entire global economy.” become more economically independent of China as possible”.
In this context, the FDP General Secretary refers to the critical infrastructure. China should not be allowed access to the market through state-owned companies for the 5G mobile communications standard. “This would also make Europe vulnerable to blackmail,” warns the experienced foreign politician.
In the opinion of Nils Schmid, the federal government does not have a bad hand in a possible dispute. Germany is working on “broadening its position” economically. And the close economic ties apply “of course also vice versa for China, which is much more dependent on the world market than Russia,” Schmid points out: An international sanctions regime will therefore hit China’s economy “quite badly and thus thwart the ambitious plans To make China a leading economic and technological power.”
Thorsten Benner, founding director of the think tank Global Public Policy Institute (GPPI), has been criticizing Germany’s economic dependence on China for years. Now he praises the foreign minister’s realism: “We have to assume that Xi will at some point try to realize his dream of dominating Taiwan by force.” At the same time, it is to be expected that the USA would go to war against China in this case.
“Such a war would have far more serious consequences for Europe than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” warns Benner. In lockstep with Europe, the USA and allies in the Indo-Pacific, Germany should “do everything possible to successfully deter Beijing and thus preserve peace in the Taiwan Straits”.
Germany’s contribution to this must be primarily economic and technological by supporting the toughest economic and technology sanctions in this case, which cuts China off from semiconductor technology, for example. “The threat of the toughest sanctions, not illusions about Germany’s role as a mediator, are the peace policy imperative with a view to China and Taiwan,” judges the think tanker.
These sanctions could only become credible if Europe greatly reduced its dependency on China. “Germany has to drastically increase the number of strokes,” warns Benner. It is “completely incomprehensible” that components from the Chinese manufacturer Huawei are still being installed in the 5G critical infrastructure. His demand: “A formal exclusion of Huawei and the obligation to replace existing Huawei components are overdue.”