Editorial Notes

Germany should not discard Merkel's China legacy: China Daily editorial

The paper says much of Angela Merkel's success has to do with the rational, pragmatic approach she has employed in diplomacy, especially in relation to China.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for the St. Michael annual reception of the German bishops in Berlin on Sept 27, 2021.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for the St. Michael annual reception of the German bishops in Berlin on Sept 27, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - After Sunday's (Sept 26) national election, Germany is officially on the threshold of a post-Angela Merkel era.

Since no major political party won close to even 30 per cent of the votes, there may be the first three-party coalition government in Germany since World War II.

Until the Social Democratic Party chancellor candidate, Olaf Scholz, strikes a coalition deal with others, it is hard to know exactly what the next German government and its policies will look like. And the coalition building process is widely expected to last till Christmas.

According to a German media poll, the most outstanding voter concerns in the election were overwhelmingly domestic - with climate change and the pandemic standing first and second, followed by immigration, social gaps, pensions, education and the economy. Given the mutual benefits of the economic cooperation between Germany and China, it should have been a nailed-on certainty for the new German leadership coalition to show continuity in its approach to relations with China, and preserve the fine fundamentals of the relationship.

Yet Scholz, Armin Laschet, candidate of Merkel's CDU/CSU Union bloc, and Annalena Baerbock, the Green Party candidate, who are set to be the leading figures in the coalition have all voiced an unwillingness to continue Merkel's China policy.

Since Scholz wants to make sure his country gets "a good, pragmatic government", he should reconsider his stance and take a page from Merkel's playbook when it comes to China. There is no doubt that in spite of any criticism, pragmatism was the core thread running through Merkel's 16 years as German chancellor.

Opinions may vary about Merkel's legacy, but there is no denying that it was under her watch that Germany became the undisputed economic powerhouse of Europe in a matter of 16 years. She has led her country, and in some ways the European Union, through the global financial crisis, euro debt crisis, Brexit, and the Covid-19 pandemic, demonstrating outstanding leadership in domestic, regional and global affairs.

Much of her success has to do with the rational, pragmatic approach she has employed in diplomacy, especially in relation to China. In her diplomacy she has staunchly advocated multilateralism, opposed conflict and confrontation, and demonstrated admirable dedication to friendly exchanges and pragmatic cooperation with China.

Merkel's 12 visits to China during her time in office have been instrumental to her understanding not only of the Oriental civilization, but also of the special importance of friendly ties between her country and China, which have served both countries well over the past 16 years.

Germany is now China's No 1 trading partner in Europe, and the No 1 EU direct investor in China. Whoever takes Merkel's place as German leader should cherish this productive, promising relationship.

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