[Editor’s note: China pays close attention to the general election in Germany. The article below is an analysis of what the result of the German presidential election may mean to China. The article was first published in China’s state-run media China Youth Daily and republished in Xinhuanet.com on September 29, 2005.]
It Is Not Good News to China If the Age of Schroeder Is Over
"Please hurry to find a solution!" The chaos after German election on September 18 made Mr. Barroso, President of the E.U. Commission, anxious. The headquarters of the European Union was expecting the deadlock between two German major political parties to end soon. It was because the German election not only has a huge impact on Germany itself, but also affects European Union’s nerves.
On September 28, two major German parties held a second round of negotiation. Various signs have indicated that, after a deadlock for ten days, to form a "grand coalition government" by Christian Democrats/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) would be more practical and popular. However, the two parties have not reached a clear compromise.
Outsiders need not to worry about complicated election and political struggles in Germany. Nonetheless, one has to pay attention to the impact of German election both on Germany and on other major powers in the world.
Which Direction Is European Political Situation Turning To?
As early as in May/June this year, referendums on "The treaty of European Constitution" held in France and Netherlands have failed one after another. After the July bombing in London, some politicians and analysts around the world believed that, having experienced these events, European countries will make a "right" turn in the future elections.
Germany is one of the largest member states of the European Union and it is also one of the "twin engines" for this giant ship of European Union. Not only has the German election served as a "wind cone" for the European politics but also has had a solid influence on the European political direction.
Prior to the election, CDU/CSU led the poll by 20 percent. It was believed in a lot of analyses and comments that right-wing Merkel would be the new Chancellor of Germany and the political trend in Germany would lead European politics to turn "right" altogether. However, the result of the election indicated that the left-wing has unexpectedly gained support from a large number of people. It was too early to have a "right-turn" conclusion. Even though two parties would reach a compromise that Merkel would take the position as Chancellor for the "grand coalition government," SPD would not easily give up its power in the coalition government. Merkel will not be able to follow her own agenda during her administration.
The Guardian in the United Kingdom even believed that the European political trend is not turning "right" but "left." It reported that the German election has caused a strong reaction in France. The popularity of French right-wing political star Sarkozy faded. The right-wing government in Norway stepped down after a recent election. The British conservative party is unable to recover after a decline. Italian right wing and pro-U.S. government continues to lose people’s support and faces a risk of failure in the next year election. "In fact, the European political trend is not unclear."
European Union’s Foreign Policy Faces an Adjustment
Over the past several years, Germany led by Schroeder, and France led by Chirac, have been European Union’s "motors" and they are also two advocates for European Union’s independence in foreign relations and defense. It may be said that these two "brothers" have caused the United States endless headaches when dealing with Europe.
Schroeder and Chirac ganged up on Bush on the 2003 Iraq war, causing relations between Europe and the United States to slide to a new low since the end of the World War II. After Bush was re-elected, although both the United States and Europe have expressed their "good will" of "reconciliation," and Bush has had several meeting with Schroeder and Chirac to reconcile, the United States has taken a firm stance. Bush would oppose anything that is advantageous to Schroeder and Chirac. A good example is the United States’ stance against Germany to be "a permanent member the Security Council" in the reform of U.N. Security Council.
But after the German election, no matter who takes Chancellor’s office, the hard-line policy adopted in the age of Schroeder toward the United States would be gone forever. Whether in Germany or other European countries, it is believed that in the "post-Schroeder age" it is very important for Germany to fix its relations with the United States. Germany should show a positive attitude (advantageous to the United States) on the Iraq issue. Germany’s attitude on other issues, such as the nuclear problem in Iran, Syria and so on, would be more "flexible."
Since there is little hope for French President Chirac to be re-elected, the European Union, led by Germany, France and the United Kingdom, would be more cooperative with the United States in military and political integration.
China-E.U. Relationship Would Enter a Phase of Adjustment
In recent years, China-E.U. relations have been heated up rapidly. Both sides established a strategic partnership and published "policy documents" toward each other. On the one hand, it is a natural result of the peaceful rising of China and the change of international environment. On the other hand, the friendly attitude toward China by Schroeder and Chirac is also a very important factor.
In the past two years, almost all of motions proposed to strengthen relations between the European Union and China have been strongly supported by France and Germany. On the issue of arms embargo against China, Schroeder and Chirac are part of the determined group to lift the ban.
From the perspective of realistic interests of both sides, it is a main trend that China and the European Union will continue to maintain close relationship. However, on some important issues that would bother China-E.U. relations, such as the arms embargo against China and the "position in the market economy," Merkel and next French President will not be as positive as in the age of Schroeder and Chirac. China-E.U. relations might enter a new phase of adjustment. Germany will take turn to be the Chairman State of the E.U. Commission in the first half of 2007. Then, we will see how Germany will further develop relations between China and the European Union.