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What Does Beijing Want From Berlin?

The meeting comes as Germany proposes to play a larger role in the Indo-Pacific region, a developmen..

The meeting comes as Germany proposes to play a larger role in the Indo-Pacific region, a development that has prompted Chinese state media to warn that “China-Europe relations may never be the same.”

“The Himalayas and the Malacca Strait may seem a long way away,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declared on September 2. “But our prosperity and our geopolitical influence in the coming decades will depend not least on how we work together with the countries of the Indo-Pacific region.

“We want to help shape that order,” Maas continued, “so that it is based on rules and international cooperation, not on the law of the strong.” He said Germany has intensified cooperation with “countries that share our democratic and liberal values.”

Global Times, an arm of Chinese state media, responded a day later with an article that questioned Europes capacity to wield influence in the region, and bristled at the notion of an Indo-Pacific strategy, which has been formalized in U.S. policy statements for two years. The United States changed the name of its former Pacific Command to Indo-Pacific Command in May 2018.

The concept of Indo-Pacific “is not a simple political term, nor is it value-neutral,” the newspaper argued. Rather, it said, “this term implies one of the geopolitical focal points of the intensifying U.S.-China strategic rivalry.”

The article went on to say that Germany’s latest policy guidelines “reveal its recognition of the U.S. strategic orientation toward the Asia-Pacific region, and even herald a U.S.-Germany convergence in the future of their attitudes and overall policy lines in handling issues in this region.”

The article also questioned Europes potential to influence strategic security in the region, saying the continent has not been regarded as a stakeholder within the region “for a long time.”

“Whether in military tensions in the South China Sea or in the territorial disputes of the East China Sea, East Asian countries such as China, Japan and South Korea are more concerned with the orientations of the U.S., but do not take Europe seriously,” it said.

Nevertheless, the Global Times article said, “Changes are emerging on the horizon, and China-Europe relations may never be the same.” It noted that Germany and other European countries appear to be contemplating moving investments out of China “to India, or some [other] Southeast Asian country,” posing a more urgent challenge to China.

Beijings concerns are not groundless, said Roderick Kefferpuetz, a political analyst and member of the Atlantic Council’s U.S.-Germany Renewal Initiative, based in Baden-Württemberg, in southwest Germany.

The German governments new guidelines mark the first time Berlin has acknowledged a need to diversify its investments, Kefferpuetz said. “That doesnt seem like much, but for Germany, thats a strategic change. Whether words will be followed by action will be seen.”

Kefferpuetz described the Global Times article as an attempt to accentuate differences among Germany, the EU and the U.S. while “belittl[ing] the EU.”

“By doing so, it misses the bigger picture,” he said.

“Several years back, China was expanding its influence in Europe — buying up companies, establishing a variety of political platforms and engaging with EU member states bilaterally and regionally. Now, the tables are turning,” Kefferpuetz said.

Europe, he said, is increasingly wary of Chinese influence, and “relationships are souring.”

Meanwhile, European powers are moving closer to Chinas immediate neighborhood, Kefferpuetz said in a written interview with VOA. He cited Britains plan to send an aircraft carrier to patrol in the South China Sea next year, Germanys just-announced Indo-Pacific strategy and a similar strategy that France published last year.

“By claiming that the EU is weak, and the transatlantic alliance is divided, the Global Times article just highlights how nervous China must be, given Europes push into the Indo-Pacific alongside the United States,” Kefferpuetz said.

Robert Spalding, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, has served in senior defense and diplomacy positions in the U.S. government, including senior director for strategy at the National Security Council under U.S. President Donald Trump.

He told VOA in a phone interview on Thursday that the Global Times articles emphasis on the relative importance of the United States in the region contradicted previous Chinese assertions.

“Theyve been saying were not important, that the United States has ceased being relevant, hence the need for China to take over,” he said with a laugh.

He added that Beijing appeared to have lost its footing in managing the increasingly complex global relationships.

“They dont know what theyre doing,” Spalding said.

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Covid: Thousands protest in France against proposed new vaccine pass

A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life.

Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like “no to vaccine passes”.

Interior Ministry officials said 34 people were arrested and some 10 police officers were injured after the protests turned violent in some places.

The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative Covid-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues.

Instead, people would have to be fully vaccinated to visit a range of spaces, including bars and restaurants.

The government says it expects the new rules to come into force on 15 January, although the opposition-dominated Senate could delay the process.

But demonstrators on Saturday accused the government of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally.

Others targeted their anger at the president, Emmanuel Macron, over comments he made earlier this week in relation to unvaccinated citizens, telling Le Parisian newspaper that he wanted to “piss them off”.

One protester, hospital administrator Virginie Houget, told the Reuters news agency that Mr Macron’s remarks were “the last straw”.

And in Paris, where some 18,000 people marched against the new law, demonstrators responded to his coarse language by chanting: “We’ll piss you off”.

TV images showed altercations between protesters and police turning violent in some places. In Montpellier officers used teargas during clashes with the demonstrators.

Turnout for the protests was estimated to be about four times higher than the last major demonstrations on 18 December, when some 25,500 people marched across the country.

But despite the vocal protests, opposition to the new measures is not widespread and recent polling suggests the vast majority of people back the vaccine pass.

France is one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Europe, with more than 90% of over-12s eligible for the shot fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, new coronavirus infections are rising rapidly across France as the new Omicron variant takes hold.

The country recorded more than 300,000 new cases for the second time in a week on Friday and admissions to intensive care wards are rising steadily, putting healthcare systems under strain.

Some hospitals have reported that some 85% of ICU patients are not vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Covid-19: ‘There is no choice between lives and livelihoods,’ OECD chief Gurría says

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of t..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of the year, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development backs measures seen by many as tough. Ángel Gurría tells FRANCE 24: "If you win the battle against the virus first, you will have less economic consequences." He adds that "there is no choice between lives and livelihoods; it's a false dilemma".

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Mexican economist Ángel Gurría has been Secretary-General of the OECD since 2006 – throughout the global financial crash and subsequent recovery.

With hopes now high for viable vaccines against Covid-19, he's telling world leaders that the solutions to health and economic crises must carry the elements of our solutions to the environmental crisis too: "The single most important inter-generational responsibility is with the planet. That means the recovery, where we are going to make investments that have an impact for the next 30, 40 years, must absolutely have the sustainability of the planet in mind".

On the recently announced Pfizer vaccine, Gurría says: "It is a game changer […] The possibility of a vaccine being close is of enormous consequence. We still have to wait for it to be finalised, approved and distributed in sufficient amounts that it can get everywhere, so we are calculating that we are going to spend most of 2021 still living with the virus. But it changes expectations; the whole mood has improved considerably since the announcement."

On the refusal of Donald Trump, leader of the OECD's biggest single funder, to concede defeat in the US presidential election, Gurría sounds an upbeat note: "I believe that we will have an orderly transition of power in the United States come 20th January 2021. I believe in the institutions in the United States, I believe that the political forces in the United States will eventually align."

Finally, as talks drag on over a new Brexit deal on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, Gurría says he still expects a deal to be struck: "I believe that the common interest will lead to a deal […] The impact in Europe is going to be limited to the trade with the UK. The impact in the UK is going to be very serious, not only because of the flows of trade and flows of investment, but also because the overall business mood will be affected. So I am still counting on a deal."

Produced by Mathilde Bénézet

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Attacks in France and Austria: Europe’s response to extremism

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24
This Friday..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24

This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris terror attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The last few weeks have seen more bloodshed, with attacks in the Paris region, in Nice and in the Austrian capital Vienna. European leaders are looking for solutions: ways to stop hate being preached, broadcast and acted upon, while defending individual freedoms of speech and of conscience. In our debate we ask two leading members of the European Parliament, from France and from Austria, what they believe should be done.

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Produced by Yi Song and Perrine Desplats

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Our guests

  • Andreas SCHIEDER, Austrian MEP, Socialists & Democrats
  • Nathalie LOISEAU, French MEP, Renew Europe

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