Category Archives: International relations

Audi apologises to Japan following incident in China

The German car manufacturer Audi has apologised to Japan after staff in one of its dealerships in China called for the killing of Japanese as part of the disturbances over the contested islands of Diaoyu, or Senkaku as they are called in Japanese.

Anti-Japanese protests at Audi dealership in China

The 6 meter (20 foot) banner held up by the staff at Audi reads:

“Japanese must all be killed even if it means China is covered in graves. Diaoyu must be reclaimed even if China becomes barren land.”

Audi has not taken any actions against the staff of the dealership apart from telling them not to protest in this manner. It’s a sure reflection of how important the Chinese market is to the luxury car manufacturer.


Transatlantic Trends releases 2012 survey of US and EU opinions

Transatlantic Trends is an annual survey released by the American public policy institute German Marshall Fund with the help of  Compagnia di San Paolo, Fundação Luso-Americana, the BBVA Foundation, the Communitas Foundation, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and the Open Society Foundations. The survey polls opinion on a range of issues in the United States, Turkey, Russia and 12 European Union member states.

Some of the key findings in relation to Asia-Pacific are interesting. When surveying European nations on the question of which region is more important for national interests, the US or Asia, 61% of Europeans thought the US was more important, which is up 9% since last year. The opinion ranged widely with respondents in Russia, Turkey and Sweden most likely to look to Asia. Germans, French and British respondents thought the US to be more important by a wide margin.

US or Asia most important to European national interests?

On the question whether China is a threat or an opportunity, nearly two-thirds of U.S. respondents (59%) thought that China is more of an economic threat and the French were even more likely to view China as a threat. No doubt mirroring some of the fear the French have of globalisation. The successful exporting nations of northern Europe like Sweden, Netherlands and Germany saw an opportunity over a threat.

China, an opportunity or a threat?

The survey also reported on the opinions on military intervention in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and it gave some surprising results. Of all countries surveyed, Sweden was the most in favour of military intervention, more so than the US. The majority of Swedes are in favour of intervention in all three countries. Russia and Turkey were the most skeptic to military intervention.

Which country most supportive of military interventions in the Middle East?

Westerwelle makes visit to South Asia

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is making visit to India and Bangladesh this week. One of the stops on his tour will be the dynamic southern Indian city of Bangalore where over a 150 German business are active.

Germany and India have been working closely together for quite some time to reform the UN Security Council. Berlin and New Delhi both are seeking a permanent seat on the body.

Mr Westerwelle seems at awe of the economic and strategic power of the rising Asian giants judging by his comment at a recent conference in Berlin entitled “Asia’s New Powers – Values, Economy, World Order”. During a panel discussion, Mr Westerwelle was carrying forward the tradition of German modesty and underestimating itself. Westerwelle said that while Germany certainly was important in Europe, its influence on the world stage was small and that “modesty” was in order. He also stated that “We are no longer setting the pace”.

For realist with a good grasp of the view from Asia, Westerwelle’s views – which are fairly typical of a northern European politician – seem somewhat too modest. Germany is the world’s second largest exporter and the leading voice in Europe. A stronger voice in world affairs is held back only by Germany’s own lack of ambition, not by growing Asian powers.Moreover, Westerwelle was of the opinion that only a united Europe would have a greater influence on the world. That notion seems at odds with how events are developing in the continent.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle – the face of timidity?

Balance shifts in a multipolar world

Interesting opinion piece by Volker Perthes, executive chairman and director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, in the newspaper The Australian. Mr Perthes suggests that the switch from G7 (and G8) to the G20 and with US and large parts of Europe facing financial crisis the global power is shifting to multiple players.

THE multipolar nature of today’s international system is on display at the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico. Global problems are no longer solved, crises managed or global rules defined, let alone implemented, the traditional way, by a few, mostly Western, powers.

Incipient great and middle powers, such as India, Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and South Africa, also want their say.

Some of these powers are still emerging economies. Politically, however, most have crossed the threshold that has long limited their access to the kitchen of international decision-making.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council still defend their right to veto resolutions, and their military power is unmatched, but they can no longer dispose of sufficient resources, competence and legitimacy to cope with global challenges or crises on their own.

Bipolarity is a thing of the past, and it is unlikely to re-emerge in a new Sino-American G2.

The international order is becoming more pluralistic. The task for established Western democracies is to accept and cope with such democratic differences on the international level and to seek multilateral coalitions to manage or solve problems.

In principle, the EU is better positioned than the US (and certainly than China) for this task. Europeans are well practised in dealing with differences and shaping consensus among principally like-minded states. That said, Europe needs to be clearer and more transparent about the interests underlying its own policies.


The last two paragraphs suggest that Perthes wants the still solvent nations of northern Europe, notably Germany, to have an increasing say in world affairs. Germany has hitherto not stated its strategic interests clearly.

Dutch journalists paid to spy on Chinese

Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that journalists were paid to spy on Chinese officials.

The Dutch Secret Service (AIVD) recruited and paid a number of journalists to spy on Chinese officials during the 2008 Olympic Games, according to the Dutch daily De Telegaaf.

A group of seven sports journalists received payment from the AIVD for gathering information during their stay in China, where the 2008 Summer Olympics was held. One of the journalists who was asked to spy refused to do so.

The journalists were asked to take photographs of and make reports about Chinese officials who met with representatives of Dutch businesses.

It seems unclear whether the ultimate targets of the espionage were the Chinese officials or the Dutch business representatives.

Chinese president Hu Jintao makes state visit to Denmark

President Hu makes a three day visit to Denmark, the current holder of the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Hu is the first Chinese leader to visit the country since diplomatic ties were established in the 1950.

China and Denmark established a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2008 and President Hu expressed a wish to take the partnership to a new level with the visit. The two countries have seen increasing trade between them in the last couple of years and the visit was looking to improve cooperation in the areas of science, trade, investment, finance, infrastructure, tourism and navigation.

A number of investment deals have been signed by companies from the two countries in the week leading up to the visit. Most notably Carlsberg, the Danish beer company, will invest in a brewery in the Yunnan province worth US$670 million, and the Danish shipping company A.P. Moeller-Maersk signed a contract to build a new container port in China worth up to US$500 million.

The Chinese have now visited all Scandinavian nations this year except Norway. The Nobel Peace prize, which is awarded in the Norwegian capital Oslo, was given to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010.

Chinese officials stated that the visit will send out positive signals that China will support Europe’s efforts to combat the debt crisis and advance its comprehensive strategic partnership with EU.


Queen Margrethe II greets Hu Jintao and his wife at the airport