From August 19 to September 9, the two-year joint air military exercise “Dark-2022” is being held in Darwin, northern Australia. 100 aircraft and 2,500 military personnel are involved.
Among them, Japan, South Korea and Germany are fully participating in the military exercise for the first time this year. The US wants to win over Japan and South Korea to design the so-called Asian version of NATO, and Germany’s air force deployment this time is the largest in the Indo-Pacific region since the end of World War II.
“We want to prove that we can reach Asia in one day,” said Luftwaffe chief Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz when asked if German military planes would fly through the South China Sea and China. Gerhardt made it clear that the planes will follow a civil air traffic route and there are no plans to go through the Taiwan Strait. He stressed that the deployment of the Luftwaffe is to send a message to partners, not to China, and he does not believe that threatening information has been sent to China.
Regarding the dispatch of 13 Luftwaffe military aircraft to Australia to participate in the military exercise, some German media noted that there were voices in Chinese public opinion warning its trading partner Germany not to join the United States’ “anti-China game” .
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung believes this means Germany is joining the “anti-China alliance” led by the United States, which may affect economic and trade relations between Germany and China.
“The German Air Force went to the “Indo-Pacific region” this time, not to show its power, but to reflect its new strategic position, that is, to send a message to the outside world that it will actively participate in military affairs in the region, in the future”.
The publication pointed out that the German navy had sent a frigate to the Indo-Pacific region last year and now it is the turn of the Air Force fighter jets. Although, as in similar situations in the past, the German military did not clearly indicate “who is a potential adversary” or “what scenario it will train for,” it is clear what kind of situation these Asian partners are preparing for: Target China.
“Germany’s military is still weak and cannot turn the tide in times of crisis, but from a political point of view, the German government is choosing a new path, which will prevent Germany from maintaining close economic and trade relations with China for a long time. period of time, as is the case today for the relations between Germany and Russia”. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung made it clear that Germany is joining an “anti-China alliance” led by the US, but the United States itself has been tested, not just in the Taiwan Strait.
Also on August 16, the German newspaper Die Welt published a more direct view, saying that it is admirable for the German Air Force to show its strength in China, but Germany must also be self-aware that it is not the United States. “She treats herself as a giant.”
Germany’s TV1 noted that there were voices warning Germany not to join the United States’ “anti-China game” in China’s public opinion field.
France’s Le Monde boldly warned that Germany must be self-aware of its strengths and not be a “dwarf pretending to be a giant”.
Le Monde asked what are Germany’s interests in the Far East? What are the means of violence, if necessary, to defend these interests? “It is better for the German military to exert influence in Europe to ease the burden on allies like the United States, than to go to the ‘Indo-Pacific region’ and pretend to be the giant,” the article concludes.
According to German media reports, 6 Luftwaffe “Typhoon” fighter jets departed Neuburg Air Base in Germany on the afternoon of August 15, followed by 4 A400M transport aircraft and 3 A330 aerial refueling aircraft.
However, only five ‘Typhoon’ fighter jets reached the Asia-Pacific region. German media reported that one of the fighter jets suffered a hydraulic system failure and was stopped in the United Arab Emirates for repairs.
Since the end of World War II, the Luftwaffe has never “traveled so far”, flying 15,000 kilometers in a straight line from Germany to Australia. The head of the German Air Force said before the formation began that the mission to the other side of the world to participate in the joint military exercise is the largest and most demanding mobilization of the Luftwaffe since its inception. “We want to show that we can reach Asia in one day,” he added.
According to the official website of the Australian Air Force, the “Pitch Black-2022” exercise is mainly conducted at the Darwin and Tyndall bases of the Royal Air Force. The 17 countries participating in the exercise are Australia, United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Indonesia, India, Singapore, Japan, South Korea , the Philippines, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia.
According to reports, this military exercise dates back to 1981 and the US Air Force first participated in 1983. The 2018 exercise was the largest to date, with 4,000 military personnel and 140 aircraft, with the Indian Air Force participating for the first time. Compared to the exercise in 2018, the scale of “Dark-2022” has been reduced, but the number of participating countries has increased from 12 to 17.
Economic relations between Germany and China
On August 19, Reuters reported a research report by the German Institute for Economic Research (IW) that pointed out that although Germany faces political pressure to wean itself off its dependence on China, the German economy has become more dependent on China in first half of 2022, with both direct investment and trade deficits reaching new highs.
The German Institute for Economic Research said in the report that Germany’s export growth to China has slowed significantly, citing economists’ view that the Chinese market is beginning to see more local manufacturing trends.
“The German economy is much more dependent on China than the Chinese economy is on Germany,” said Jürgen Matthes, author of the study, published in June.
Both this research report and recent remarks by the German chancellor call on German companies to reduce or not become too dependent on China. However, recent research by another German think tank shows that if the EU and Germany “decouple” from China on trade, Germany will suffer damage equivalent to 6 times that caused by BREXIT.
In Matthes’ view, Germany’s economic dependence on China is actually a “political issue” because China’s position on the Russo-Ukraine conflict and its military stance on the Taiwan issue have caused Germany to reconsider its trade relations with Beijing.
“However, despite these problems, the economic interdependence of Germany and China is moving in the wrong direction at an alarming rate in the first half of 2022.” The institute’s research found that between January and June this year, German investment in China reached around 10 billion euros, far surpassing the 2000 high of 6.2 billion euros.
The German Institute for Economic Research also found that China’s share of German imports rose to 12.4% in the first half of 2022, from 3.4% in 2000, and that the value of German imports of Chinese goods increased by 45.7%. on an annual basis, during this semester.
Just over halfway through 2022, Germany’s trade deficit with China has jumped to nearly 41 billion euros, the report said, adding that the gap will widen further by the end of the year.
To that end, the German Institute for Economic Research called for a policy change, urging Germany to reduce incentives to trade with China and trade more with other emerging markets, particularly Asia.
Matthes also called on German companies to reduce their reliance on China, arguing that in the event of an armed attack on Taiwan by China, certain Western sanctions on Beijing could bankrupt German companies.
On August 11, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz held his first summer press conference in Berlin. Speaking about China, he said Germany and China discussed his first visit to China after taking office, but no specific date had been set.
At the same time, Scholz also focused on reducing dependence on imports, calling on German companies not to rely too much on China, but to focus on a diversified supply chain. Reducing import dependency is already part of Germany’s national strategy. “I believe that the German financial community has now made the right decision,” he said.
On the other hand, on August 9, the Ifo Institute published a report commissioned by the Bavarian Industrial Association (VBW), which simulated the trade relationship between the EU and China. Five possible scenarios, such as “decoupling”, are calculated and analyzed to make recommendations for Germany’s future economic model.
The report pointed out that in recent years, German trade has become increasingly dependent on China, and China has become one of Germany’s largest trading partners. In 1990, trade with China represented less than 1% of Germany’s foreign trade. In 2021, this percentage has increased to 9.5%. In addition, 46% of German companies said they currently rely on intermediate inputs from China, according to a survey published by the Iver Institute for Economic Research.
According to the report, if the EU and China disengage unilaterally, Germany’s total imports from China will drop by 95.84% and its exports to China will also drop by 17.73%.
If the EU and China “disengage” and there is a trade war, Germany’s imports from China will drop by 96.44% and the drop in exports to China will jump to 97.19%.
In both scenarios, German real GDP would fall by 0.52% and 0.81%, respectively. The report points out that these figures may seem small, but compared to the 0.14% reduction in Germany’s real GDP when the UK left the EU, the cost of “disengaging” with China is actually ” very high’, which equates to almost 4-6 times greater losses.
Despite the unfavorable economic scenarios, Berlin seems determined to try its luck in the geopolitical field as well. Only, as the French also point out, in this field it is still a dwarf.
*Source: geoeurope.org. geoeurope is a website created by scientists and experts who have worked on the geopolitics of Europe and have identified specific gaps in the flow of information that shape the geopolitical debates on our continent.