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EDITORIAL | Secure Germany's Refocus on Japan as Economic Security Partner

China has been the focus of Germany's Asia policy. Expect China to go on the offensive to frustrate greater Germany-Japan cooperation.



Germany Japan
German Chancellor Scholz and PM Fumio Kishida shake hands at the end of the joint press conference at the Prime Minister's Office on March 18 (© Sankei by Kazuya Kamogawa)

Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently visited Tokyo for a summit meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The two confirmed their desire to enhance bilateral cooperation between Germany and Japan in terms of economic security, including strengthening of supply chains, and other areas. 

Both sides also agreed to work together to achieve a "free and open Indo-Pacific" and ensure security. Although they avoided naming names, it was clear that the increased emphasis on cooperation was undertaken with China in mind. 

China is Germany's largest trade partner. And prior to now the axis of Berlin's Asia policy has definitely tilted towards Beijing. Its new reorientation towards Japan is therefore a highly significant development. 

Germany Japan
German Chancellor Scholz and PM Fumio Kishida answer questions together during a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office on March 18 (© Sankei by Kazuya Kamogawa)

Deepening Friendship

Japan and Germany are friends that share universal values, such as freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. Hopefully, the strengthening of relations between the two countries will contribute to peace and stability in the international community.

Chancellor Scholz paid an earlier visit to Japan in April 2022

This time, he was accompanied on his three-day visit by six members of his Cabinet. They included the ministers holding the foreign affairs, defense, and finance portfolios. As a result, the first ever intergovernmental consultations were held involving both the top leaders and other ministers from the two countries. 

In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Scholz administration has been directly confronted with the perils posed by having become reliant on the authoritarian regime in Moscow for its energy needs. At the same time, there have been calls within the German government to review its China-oriented Asia policy and to strengthen relations with Japan.

Outcome of the Consultations

During the just-concluded intergovernmental consultations, the two sides agreed to work together to ensure information security and respond to economic coercion and state-sponsored unauthorized acquisition of technology. 

Behind this shared interest is a sense of crisis about relying on China as a supply chain source and a destination for finished goods, seeing how the Chinese government has aligned itself with Russia and is increasingly acting in a hegemonic manner.

Germany and Japan also share concerns about the outflow of cutting-edge technology to China. In Germany, the acquisition of an industrial robotics company by a Chinese company has triggered debate about the issue of technology outflows. Four years ago, a prominent German business group recommended that domestic companies reduce their dependence on China.

Olaf Scholz
Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the Great Hall of the People on November 4, 2022. (Kay Nietfel/Pool Photo via AP)

Economic Ties Remain Entangled

Nonetheless, China remains a key market for Germany's mighty automotive industry. It is no doubt too early to assume that the deep economic ties between the two countries can change so easily. 

In fact, when Chancellor Scholz visited Beijing in November 2022 with a group of business leaders, he met with Xi Jinping. It was right after Xi had been elected to a third term as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. At that time, the two sides agreed to expand economic cooperation. 

It is conceivable that China will go on the offensive to frustrate greater German-Japanese cooperation. Japan also needs to more clearly demonstrate how much it values its ties with Germany, Europe's economic powerhouse. 

Prime Minister Kishida should fully utilize the framework of intergovernmental consultations with Germany. In addition, he should actively promote reciprocal visits by top leaders and Cabinet ministers.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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