| 24 March 2023, Friday |

German minister to visit Taiwan in test of China relations

A ministry official said on Friday that the German education minister will travel to Taiwan the next week with the goal of enhancing Berlin and Taipei’s semiconductor collaboration. The spokesperson added that the trip will not be focused on the sovereignty question.

Taiwan is democratically governed, and China has escalated pressure in the military, political, and economic spheres to make those claims official. The politically difficult visit will happen as Berlin evaluates its once-close ties with China.

A visit to Taiwan in January by a delegation of high-ranking lawmakers from the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), the smallest party in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-way coalition, led to protests from Beijing.

Bettina Stark-Watzinger, also of the FDP, will begin her visit early next week, a ministry spokesperson said.

A source with direct knowledge of the visit said Stark-Watzinger would not see President Tsai Ing-wen upon the instructions of the German government to avoid irritating China too much.

The source stressed the trip was a working visit to discuss areas under Stark-Watzinger’s portfolio and not directly about sending a message of support from Germany to Taiwan.

Scholz reiterated before a planned trip to Japan on Saturday that he stands by Beijing’s so-called “one China” policy. Berlin nonetheless maintains lower level contacts with Taiwan.

Tsai meets most senior visiting foreign officials and lawmakers, though not all.

Speaking at a regular news conference in Berlin, the education ministry spokesperson said the agenda during Stark-Watzinger’s visit will also include battery research and supply chains.

Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC is currently considering investments in Europe and Germany.

In a departure from the policies of Germany’s former chancellor, Angela Merkel, Scholz’s government is developing a new China strategy to reduce dependence on Asia’s economic superpower, hitherto a vital export market for German goods.

Last year, China condemned a visit to Taiwan by then-U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-level U.S. visit in 25 years, as a threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Merkel took big business delegations on her frequent trips to China, which became Germany’s top trade partner in 2016.

Shortly before leaving office in 2021, Merkel told Reuters she may have been naive at first in some areas of cooperation with China.

  • Reuters