Why is Germany wading into the Indo-Pacific’s strategic waters?

Why is Germany wading into the Indo-Pacific’s strategic waters?

  • Berlin’s relationship with Beijing is founded on economics and trade but now the European giant is taking a bigger interest in the region on the other side of the world
  • Among the main concerns is the South China Sea, an area at risk of becoming a flashpoint

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had barely wrapped up the Berlin leg of his five-nation European trip last week when Germany unveiled a major strategic shift.Wang had been in Europe trying to repair ties damaged by the coronavirus pandemic, the national security law in Hong Kong and allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

But the day after he left, Germany announced it was adopting an Indo-Pacific strategy, suggesting a reassessment of its approach towards China.

Germany’s relationship with China has long centred on economics and trade but now that is expected to encompass geopolitical interests and human rights.

The United States was the first to adopt an Indo-Pacific strategy in 2017, promoting the concept of a “free and open” region to check China’s growing military presence and economic influence.

France became the first European country to follow suit in May 2019, aiming to be “an inclusive and stabilising mediating power” in the region. It held the first trilateral dialogue of foreign ministers with India and Australia on Wednesday, with topics covering coronavirus relief and maritime security.

Now Germany, China’s biggest economic partner in Europe, has become the second on the continent to signal its Indo-Pacific interests with the guidelines outlined in “Germany-Europe-Asia: shaping the 21st century together”.