Analysts Advise Merkel To Get Tough On China

The government of Germany should more strictly control economic and scientific cooperation with China. It is necessary to carefully check the direct investments of Chinese firms in German enterprises and demand equal rights for investors from Germany to the PRC. The country has to actively train specialists who know the Chinese language well. A consultation center should also be created to explain to German and European scholars working with China, as well as representatives of medium and small businesses, the specifics of cooperation with this country.

These are some of the key recommendations of the Research and Innovation Expert Commission (EFI) under the German government, set out in its annual report. The paper was presented at a press conference in Berlin on February 19 by the new chairman of the commission, Uwe Cantner, professor of economics at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena.

« The exchange of knowledge and technology between Germany and China » is one of the three main topics of the report, along with « Cybersecurity » and « Innovations in East Germany 30 years after the unification of the country. » It was the Chinese chapter of the presented document that aroused the keen interest of the German economic newspaper Handelsblatt. It published an interview with Uwe Kantner under the heading « Merkel’s Innovation Advisers Warn Against China. »

In an interview with the newspaper, Uwe Kantner explained that the commission (consisting of six university professors, attracting various specialists to its work) is very concerned about « the preservation of German technological sovereignty » and the danger of increasing its « technological dependence on the People’s Republic of China. » Therefore, the government of Angela Merkel is encouraged to « tighten and expand » control over both economic and scientific ties with China.

Moreover, it is not at all a matter of curtailing cooperation. “Germany is very interested in good cooperation in the scientific and economic spheres with such a rapidly developing center of innovation as China,” the report emphasizes. However, it must be borne in mind that all scientific and innovative activities in the PRC are directed and controlled by the Communist Party, and it has ambitious global goals.

For the sake of their achievement, companies from China are aiming to buy high-tech firms abroad, including in Germany, so that the Chinese state gains access to foreign know-how. At the same time, the activities of private German companies investing in China are strictly regulated. In particular, they only in rare cases are allowed to completely buy Chinese firms or acquire a controlling interest in them.

The members of the expert commission see this disparity, which was also pointed out by German business a year ago, as a serious problem. Therefore, they recommend that the German government strive for a level playing field for foreign direct investment and welcome the intention of the German Ministry of Economics to more carefully check the plans for the absorption of high-tech firms by foreign investors. “A partner who violates the rules of a market economy cannot be stopped with market instruments,” Uwe Kantner said in the interview with Handelsblatt.


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