Merkel heir warns Biden not to start 'new cold war with China'

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President Joe Biden should not embark on “a new cold war with China,” according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s heir apparent, a sign the next leader of the European power will be as big a thorn in Washington's side as the outgoing one.

“I’m not sure the American president wants to create a new cold war with China,” Armin Laschet, the leader of the Christian Democratic Union party and a leading candidate to succeed Merkel, said at a Federation of German Industries event. “He has some very strong positions where he shows a competitive attitude [where] we as Europeans can be allies. But if somebody wants to start a new war, that would be the wrong answer.”

Biden’s team has identified Germany, the European Union’s largest economy, as a centerpiece of its effort to improve coordination with U.S. allies and coordinate an “alliance of democracies” to manage threats from China. Laschet, who is building his campaign to succeed Merkel around a plan to “unchain” German industry while protecting the environment, affirmed his “support” for Merkel’s strategy on China and implied that Berlin’s priorities might require a degree of self-censorship on matters such as human rights.

“We have clear-cut human rights criteria that must be mentioned in our dialogue — not always openly; there are other ways and means to talk about it,” Laschet said, per an event interpreter. “But still our economic and trade relations, and our relations in terms of climate protection, can only work if we work with the government.”

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That’s a sharp difference from Biden’s tone at the G-7 summit earlier this month in Cornwall, where the president cited the democratic rebuke of Chinese atrocities against the Uyghur Muslims as a highlight of the week.

“I think we’re in a contest, not with China per se but a contest with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in the rapidly changing 21st century,” Biden told reporters. “I walked away from the meeting with all my colleagues believing that they are convinced that that is correct now, too. … Not just because of me, but they believe that to be the case.”

Berlin’s willingness to pursue economic relationships in nondemocratic areas at the expense of U.S. views about strategic or security risks has complicated trans-Atlantic cooperation in recent years. Former President Donald Trump’s open distaste for Merkel absorbed most of the international blame for poor relations between Berlin and Washington, but German officials have continued in recent months to defy U.S. warnings about key issues such as the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany.

Biden’s administration waived key sanctions on the pipeline, which will allow Russia to send gas directly to Germany without passing through Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that “goodwill from our Ukrainian partners is needed” for Russian gas to continue flowing along the current route, a message that Ukrainian and other Eastern European officials interpret as a threat, given that Russia is involved in a war with Ukraine.

“Ukraine’s interests must be safeguarded,” Laschet said in an interview this week with Financial Times. “And if the Russians don’t stick to that, the basis of the NS2 deal will cease to exist.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Berlin this week for a conference on Libya and meetings with Merkel and other officials in her government.

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“We consider Germany a key ally, partner, and friend,” the State Department’s top official for the Europe bureau, Philip Reeker, told reporters Monday afternoon. "And our ties are certainly built on mutual commitments to democracy, human rights, the rule of law, security, and prosperity.”

Laschet, asked about Biden's China strategy, said that "the prism of how the world looked before 1989 offers limited advice." And he suggested on Tuesday that public criticism of China or other regimes isn't effective.

"Just criticizing will not change the world in the long run," he told the German business forum.

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Tags: News, Foreign Policy, National Security, Angela Merkel, China, Germany, Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin, Human Rights, Uyghurs

Original Author: Joel Gehrke

Original Location: Merkel heir warns Biden not to start 'new cold war with China'

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