The visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Berlin could be a celebration, because seldom have Germany and China needed each other quite as much as they do now. After the fiasco with Donald Trump in Sicily it is hugely important for Chancellor Angela Merkel to focus on cooperation with Beijing, to make sure that her ideals of free trade and an equitable form of globalization retain their relevance at July’s G20 summit in Hamburg – especially in this election year.
But a genuine partnership can only function between equals, and that is not the reality of economic relations between Berlin and Beijing. For years the People’s Republic of China asked for forbearance whenever the Germans and other Europeans complained about discrimination and lack of access to markets. After all, Chinese politicians claimed, China was a developing country and needed more time. But this period of grace is now well and truly over.