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German industry caught up in geopolitics

“We are living in a time of change. This means that the world after is no longer the same as the world before. Basically, it is a question of knowing whether force can transgress the law. » Olaf Scholz’s speech, during the historic session in the Bundestag on February 27, 2022, marks a revolution in Germany’s approach to its foreign policy. Forced by Russian intervention in Ukraine, the Social Democratic Chancellor reversed the principles that had guided Germany since the end of the Second World War: the country understood that it could no longer rely on law and justice. economic interdependence between States to guarantee peace and stability.

It is also a break for the engine of the world’s fourth-largest economy. For a long time, the doctrine of “Wandel durch Handel” (change through trade) had tried to reconcile these two approaches: the country was convinced that by maintaining close trade relations with non-democratic countries, the latter would end up taking the path of liberalization and democracy. This posture was all the more comfortable as Germany has largely benefited economically from the “peace dividend”, a relative geopolitical stability, over the past twenty years.

The offensive by Russia, the country’s main gas supplier, in defiance of international law, has brought the world’s fourth-largest economy out of a geopolitical naivete that has become untenable.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers The war in Ukraine forces Germany, dependent on Russian gas and oil, to review its energy choices

“It is still too early for companies to take the full measure of Olaf Scholz’s speech in the Bundestag. But I think it will fundamentally change the outlook, says Noah Barkin, expert in Europe-China relations at the Rhodium Group research firm. Germany is currently reviewing its dependence on Russian gas. The next step is to look at its economic dependencies on China from a national security perspective. »

China, Germany’s biggest trading partner

The exposure of the German economy to the Asian giant is indeed much wider and much deeper than that vis-à-vis Russia, linked essentially to energy. Sixty billion euros were traded between Germany and Russia in 2021, including 20 billion in gas and oil imports, compared to a trade volume of 245 billion euros with China in 2021.

The latter has become Germany’s leading economic partner; it captured 14% of the investments abroad made by German companies in 2020. In the three most important sectors of made in Germany – automotive, machine building and chemicals – the People’s Republic is to become the number one market for German companies.

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