Is it still diplomatic – or is it already going to Beijing?
Federal Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier (66) sparked a heated debate with a congratulatory telegram to Chinese ruler Xi Jinping (69).
︎ Because: His letter to the Beijing dictator did not contain a single word about China’s brutal politics. Instead, the federal leader wishes the Chinese “happiness and health.”
The reason for the telegram was the 50th anniversary of relations between Germany and China. In it Steinmeier finds Kind words: “Our relations have contributed to greater prosperity in both our countries and a greater number of personal contacts between the peoples of our two countries.”
Steinmeier expresses “my hope for further fruitful cooperation between our two countries”. Only at one point does the federal president speak generally of “inalienable human rights” and wants to “work for the dignity and rights of every human being.”
However, Steinmeier did not mention that the human rights situation and respect for the rule of law have significantly deteriorated under Chinese President Xi Jinping. The German head of state did not talk about military threats against Taiwan and persecution of opposition members in Hong Kong.
Also not mentioned: Chinese scientific and economic espionage directed against German research institutes and companies, strategic penetration into German companies.
This makes for harsh criticism!
︎ For FDP foreign expert Frank Müller-Rosendried (40), “the president’s greetings to the communists is like a slap in the face to all friends of freedom, including China”. Beijing is “increasingly threatening democratic Taiwan militarily, forcing millions of Uyghurs to live in slavery” and Hong Kong is “taking the last breath of democracy”.
Addressing Steinmeier, Müller-Rosentritt says: “I suggest that our president instead of Gerhard Schröder throw himself at the courageous social democrat Otto Wells.”
CDU politician Kuban: Steinmeier telegram “slap in the face”
︎ CDU economic politician Tilmann Kuban (35) has an understanding of diplomatic etiquette, but says: “Diplomacy must go beyond greetings.” Federal President Steinmeier “will not do justice to his role as German head of state if he does not solve the problems. Openly and honestly”. Kuban to Build: “Telegram is a slap in the face to all who suffer under the government in Beijing”.
► Green player Rainer Buttikofer (69) defends Steinmeier. The federal president “fortunately does not avoid the subject of human rights, even if he addresses it with caution”. Bütikofer in BILD: “Steinmeier rightly insists on ‘inviolable and inalienable human rights’ as the basis of every human society.”
Criticism is also dismissed in the office of the Federal President. Steinmeier “not only emphasizes the collective successes of the past five decades, but at the same time clearly and critically confronts the challenges of the present”. In the telegram, the federal president stressed the “validity of rights and dignity for all people”.
Hong Kong exile and human rights activist Samuel Xu (44) says that’s not enough – he chooses clear words for Steinmeier.
︎ “Even though Federal President Steinmeier condemned Russia in his message to Xi, I find it ironic and confusing that China ignores the same threat,” explains a critic of the Beijing dictatorship at BILD. “Germany apparently has not learned the lessons of its failed relationship with Russia.”
► Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to Germany Jai-wei Shih (67) puts it diplomatically. “I think it is good for Federal President Steinmeier to think of the Chinese citizens in his congratulatory telegram to President Xi,” Zhai-wei Shi told BILD. He could not spare a pointed remark to the federal president: “However, he could greet the Chinese, Uyghurs, Tibetans and Hong Kongers living here in Germany face to face. It would be very personal.”
CDU politician Klaus-Peter Wilsch (61), who recently led a German Bundestag delegation to Taiwan, is disappointed. He was “familiar with years of Chinese oppression of surrounding countries” and wanted Steinmeier to “make a clear statement about Red China’s continued threats against Taiwan.”
Steinmeier had clear words for Trump
Greetings in a friendly tone, in which important issues are left aside, are not uncommon in international relations between strategic rivals. On September 30 this year, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken offered greetings on the National Day of the Chinese People, which commemorates the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. But: Unlike Steinmeier, Blinken doesn’t directly refer to Beijing dictator Xi Jinping — he doesn’t wish him happiness and health.
Steinmeier’s argument with Donald Trump, 76, proves he can be very diplomatic: While still secretary of state, Steinmeier called the then-presidential candidate a “hateful preacher” in 2016. In 2017, Steinmeier refused to congratulate Trump after winning the presidential election.
On a 2018 trip to the US, Federal Chancellor Steinmeier completely ignored US President Trump and instead met with Trump’s political opponents from the Democratic Party in California. Steinmeier could find no clear words or gestures for Xi Jinping.
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