Germany’s next government must prepare for turbulent times in EU-China relations. Beyond setting substantive priorities, and to advance a pragmatic “principles-first” China policy centered on competition, the new government must also invest more in China competence, policy coordination and effective coalitions.
Competence: There is already strong China expertise in many federal ministries and in the German research community. But China today affects a whole new set of stakeholders and China competence remains high in demand. The next German government should continue to invest in independent China expertise and facilitate more “revolving doors” between policy-making, research and business circles.
Coordination: Internally, German China policy can still be better coordinated between ministries as well as with the Chancellor's Office. The key challenge here will be to link economic and security policy (“economic security”) more closely. The next government could also establish a foresight mechanism tasked to align the perspectives of key government stakeholders on China’s trajectory, anticipate risks and thus set guardrails for the work of the ministries.
Beyond Berlin, a more strategic China policy will require both wider and deeper coordination efforts. The subnational dimension of Germany’s China policy deserves more attention and alignment. On the European level, Germany should support an informal “Leading Small Group” of senior decision-makers in the Brussels institutions to hold things together. Other ministries, beyond the Foreign Office will need to step up their game on European China policy coordination, too.
Coalitions: The coming months offer a window of opportunity to further develop effective international coalitions on China policy. With Germany's G7 chairmanship, with the new European Indo-Pacific strategy and with a renewed focus on transatlantic coordination, the building blocks are in place. Concrete action from Berlin will be required to advance these efforts and promote connectivity on European terms, diversification in Asia and technology and trade standards with like-minded partners.