The incoming grand coalition of Christian and Social Democrats will not not support the lifting of the European Union’s arms embargo against China:
China regards the weapons ban as a “relict” of the Cold War and according to Li, “should have been thrown on the trash heap of history long ago.”
Schröder appeared to agree, although his position runs counter to those of the US and Japan, and many of his EU counterparts. Critics of his position said he was more concerned with German firms cutting deals in China than perhaps igniting a new arms race in Asia.
Then opposition leader Angela Merkel came out against lifting the arms embargo, although her remarks that she places great importance on the relationship between China and Germany have some in both Berlin and Beijing wondering if her position could change.
However, Friedbert Pflüger, a Christian Democrat member of the German parliament and a central figure in mapping out the new government’s foreign policy, told the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper on Monday that a lifting of the EU arms embargo will not be placed on the “list of administrative work” of the new German coalition cabinet.
Gerhard Schröder had been isolated in Germany with his plan to lift the embargo, so this is no great surprise.
According to the Netzzeitung (sorry, no English link yet) Pflüger also added that this stance would only change in close coordination with Germany’s European and Transatlantic partners. A minimum requirement would be a complete detente between China and Taiwan. Social Democrats foreign policy experts agree with Pflüger on this.
There might be a change of attitude towards China in other respects, too (from the first link above):
Germany’s relationship with the Middle Kingdom has up to now largely been based on this economic potential. Outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schröder made it a foreign policy priority to get more German companies into China, and companies like Siemens and Volkswagen secured lucrative contracts on his watch.
But there are voices calling for meetings between President Hu and German political leaders address more than just booming imports and possible business partnerships during the visit to Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia, the country’s industrial heartland. Concerns that, in many people’s estimations, have forced issues like human rights, democracy, and China’s worsening environmental record further down on the agenda.
Especially the human rights situation in Chinese-occupied Tibet needs to be addressed urgently. According to BioMed Central, refugees from Tibet are tortured even more frequently than previously feared (link via Der Spiegel):
Our findings demonstrate that torture is commonly reported amongst Tibetan refugees, and that those who have experienced torture often suffer significant psychological effects.
… In addition, this study illustrates the paucity of generalizable information about the mental health of this population in what appears to be a sustained assault on the health and dignity of the Tibetan culture and community. In our review, we found that severe torture, including electric cattle prods on genitals and oral cavities, as well as forced blood draws, was routinely reported. In addition, many refugees cited their mental health illnesses as stemming from witnessing their family and friends murdered.
The Chinese haven’t been responsive to criticism over Tibet for decades, so a sudden reversal is highly unlikely.