Germany Courts China

Leading From the Middle

A German flag flutters in front of the Great Hall of the People during a welcoming ceremony for German President Joachim Gauck in Beijing, China, March 21, 2016. Jason Lee / Reuters

Over the years, as relations between China and the United States have grown more adversarial—from maritime clashes over the South China Sea to economic ones over currency manipulation—Europe, and in particular Germany, the continent’s de-facto leader, has been caught in the middle.

Over the past few decades, Germany has grown economically closer to China, often finding itself at odds with the United States, which has implied that Berlin is sucking up to Beijing and being too soft on China’s aggression in the South China Sea. It is true that roughly 45 percent of the EU’s exports to China come from Germany and that Germany accounts for 28 percent of EU imports from China, based on 2013 figures. And the Chinese are not slow to point out, as President Xi Jinping did last month, that every third container in the huge port of Hamburg is a Chinese one. There

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