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Five to eight / EU policy on China: The government in Beijing will miss Angela Merkel

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China's finest hopes were just resting on Europe. A huge market with almost half a billion consumers eager to spend. A supplier of the latest technologies, politically more sociable, at least not constantly brushed for riot like the US rival.

And now this. The EU Commission and the European Parliament are stopping the investment agreement that Xi Jinping and Angela Merkel are pushing for, the final and highlight of the German EU presidency in the second half of 2020. The ratification process will be interrupted. Vice-Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said "we cannot ignore the wider context of the relationship (...)".

None of this comes as a surprise. How is Parliament supposed to approve the treaty after the contracting party has imposed penalties on MEPs from all major political groups? Out of anger that the EU had previously decided on rather tame sanctions against China because of the persecution of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang? "The sanctioned MPs are our heroes," said Manfred Weber, leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament.

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It shouldn't really take heroism to face China critically. But apparently the nerves in Brussels are a bit roughened after the People's Republic has become more and more power-conscious. And liked to let particularly aggressive diplomats, the so-called wolf warriors, off the leash.

From Berlin, the Chancellor tries to smooth things over. She considers the agreement "a very important undertaking, despite all the difficulties that are now emerging in the ratification process". After twelve trips to China in sixteen years as chancellor, Angela Merkel has no illusions about the authoritarian nature of the regime. In the case of humanitarian emergencies in Beijing, she has acted in an exemplary manner for the victims of arbitrary state violence, as she did in the case of Putin critic Alexei Navalny. But it would never risk its close economic ties with China for the sake of a political gesture.

On April 28, when the European Parliament was debating Beijing's sanctions against its MPs, German and Chinese ministers chaired by Merkel and Prime Minister Li Keqiang had just joined forces for their biennial government consultations. Cabinet rounds like this only take place with Germany's closest partners, with France, for example, and with Israel. And with China. The ultra-pragmatic Merkel will do everything possible to prevent the European-Chinese irritations from affecting the good bilateral relationship between Beijing and Berlin.