Germany will send a federal minister to Taiwan for political talks for the first time in 26 years next week, a trip which could anger the government in Beijing at a time of growing tensions between China and Europe.
(Bloomberg) — Germany will send a federal minister to Taiwan for political talks for the first time in 26 years next week, a trip which could anger the government in Beijing at a time of growing tensions between China and Europe.
Bettina Stark-Watzinger, who oversees the education and research portfolios in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s ruling coalition, plans a two-day trip to Taipei, a spokesman for her ministry said Friday at the regular government news conference in Berlin. The visit will focus on expanding research cooperation in computer chips, green hydrogen and batteries, the spokesman said.
The trip by Stark-Watzinger, a member of the liberal, pro-business Free Democrats, comes amid discussions among senior members of Scholz’s cabinet about how Berlin should position itself in light of China’s increasingly assertive stance on Taiwan.
Scholz’s chief spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, stressed that Germany’s “one-China” policy has not changed and highlighted “regular and close contact” with the Chinese leadership.
“The fact that the education and research minister is visiting Taiwan does not call into question our policy in any way,” Hebestreit said at the regular news conference.
China is by far Germany’s biggest trading partner and any retaliation for a perceived slight over Taiwan could have severe consequences for Europe’s largest economy.
Germany is in the final stages of drafting a National Security Strategy in which economic resilience and reducing one-sided dependencies on countries like China will play an important role. China is expected to be described as an international partner, competitor and systemic rival.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has exposed the dangers of over-reliance on a single supplier for imports of energy and Scholz’s government is keen to avoid similar dependencies when it comes to raw materials.
Scholz was the first major European leader to visit China in more than two years when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping for talks in Beijing in November. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who is more outspoken about China, is expected to visit her Chinese counterpart in the coming months.
Christian Wagner, a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Berlin, said Germany maintains “close and good ties” with Taiwan especially in the areas of industry, culture, education, science and research.
“Taiwan is a democracy and an important trade and investment partner of Germany’s and in that sense a regular exchange and mutual visits by ministers are completely normal,” Wagner said at Friday’s regular news conference.
The challenge of increasing economic resilience and reducing one-sided dependencies will be top of the agenda during high-level talks between Scholz and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Saturday in Tokyo.
–With assistance from Agatha Cantrill.
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