Notes on Sino-German Relations

Mark Siemons, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite correspondents in Beijing, has another piece in yesterday’s Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung.  Ironically entitled “Deutschland ist eigentlich ein zweites China in Europa [Germany is truly a second China in Europe],” it reveals a few things of note.

Foremost, the Chinese domestic media gave less attention to Wen Jiabao (and his 13 fellow ministers) in Berlin “than it would for a state visit to Central Asia.”  With virtually nothing in the Huanqiu Shibao (which Siemons calls “one of the most influential papers on transnational affairs”), a scribble in People’s Daily, and a blurb in a local Beijing paper, the visit to Germany was in the eyes of the Chinese propaganda apparatus nothing worth discussing.  Certainly there was no mention of Ai Weiwei, and why would there be?  With the giant red orgasm of the CCP’s 90th anniversary about to explode — the harmonious imposition of what the Tagezeitung calls “a unified community of belief” — why would Angela Merkel’s subtle notice about more regular and open dialogue about human rights have any traction whatsoever?

The Party thus celebrates itself in the immense bubble of humanity that is China.

Far more interesting in Siemons’ article is the notion of “Germany as a second China in Europe.”  Here Siemons characterizes his conversation with a group of Chinese intellectuals who have been keyed into this notion by writings of one particular scholar (one whose name now escapes me) at the Center for International Studies in Beijing.  The idea, according to Siemons, is rooted strongly in 19th-century notions of global power and competition, and projects a future in which Germany “leaves Europe” to unite with Scandanavia and divide the world, essentially, among itself and the U.S. and China.  Such a notion, Siemons notes, is not only tremendously fanciful, it virtually ignores Germany’s European orientation and forgets completely about the huge reluctance of Germans to strive for global power.  It seems the Chinese intellectuals have become far more Nietzschean than any German, in other words.

Finally, Der Spiegel wins the prize for the best picture caption: “The East is Red: Ferrari Red.”


  1. RE: the giant red orgasm of the CCP’s 90th anniversary. A very jittery, self-doubting performance this one requiring a lot of Red Song viagra. I think all serious and amateur CCP watchers still have their best years in front of them as China enters its latter Weimar Republic years.

    1. Best quote of the year so far from Der Spiegel: “The East is Red: Ferrari Red”!!! Very interesting parallel to Weimar, but such would imply that CCP (or its successor Party) has yet to enter a hard-line cultural stage!

  2. Historical analogies are dangerous things, so I had better justify myself.I was definitely not envisaging some future fuhrer type, even if Bo sort of fits the bill. More like the rush to modernity in Chinese cities: post modernist architecture, bullet trains, materialism, conspicious consumption and shopping (or my favourite, eye shopping) as a meaningfull activity/the construction of self identity. A quote from Walter Benjamin would be apt here, but someone had the good sense to liberate my copy.

    At the same time, civil society is experiencing dramatic polarisations. Disjunctions.When the present economic paradign runs its course to the point of total exhaustion, the PLA will go its own way as will the provinces. The filthy rich will have already exited the country. The middle classes will see the continuous fulfillment of their aspirations shattered as economic certainty disappears. The dispossessed will adopt millennial doctrines or further crowd into christian churches. Educated aspirational young adults will embrace nationalism.

  3. Apologies for the continuation. To rehash something I wrote on Custer’s site.
    Land reclamations affect older folk with livelihoods and other attachments to their plots. (Water quality and water access issues also feature here.) Older folk are probably a lot more accustomed to bowing before authority and physical force, even though there are some who turn up in Beijing annually to present their petitions. That said, the feeling of being done over by govt officials and developers must still simmer like a boil just below the surface.

    The recent unrest in Quangdong was a younger generation thing. Rural youth migrant workers who couldn’t wait to get out of the rural villages quickly enough and have no intention of returning other than for the annual family visit. Escaping from rural boredom, they are in the cities for good, and also have a greater sense of self-worth and of their civil rights. Importantly, the old village social ties of both mutual support and coercion are a thing of the past: they are now atomised individuals in the big city. Ant people plus underground Beijing and they looking towards an urban future.

    With something like 80 million CCP members, and with many under 35 and simply there for SOE and CV reasons.
    “The age profile of the Communist Party is getting younger. At the end of last year, 24.3 percent were under 35, from 23.7 percent in 2009. Desribed by one journalist as the worlds largest chanber of commerce”.
    The Party has recruited close to 10 million new members in the last couple of years

    These are the two of the most important classes in China today, and they are both under 35.

    Off topic I know. Thanks Adam

  4. Mark Siemons is in my eyes by far the best German journalist in China. Just met him. Great guy. But I would really like to see him use a language people without a PhD understand, too. That would help.

    “Zurzeit jedoch halten es die Pekinger Propagandagewaltigen anscheinend nicht für opportun, diese Trennung von Staat und Gesellschaft in der chinesischen Öffentlichkeit, die ja über das Internet potentiell auch Zugang zu westlichen Quellen hat, aufrechtzuerhalten und eine Völkerfreundschaft auszurufen, wo es lediglich Regierungsverhandlungen gab. ”

    Yep. More “Völkerfreundschaft” and less golden handshakes!

    A Question for Adam: Could the Hitler hoax Siemons was writing about before be a planned act to prepare tightening relations between Germany and China? Or is the idea absurd? I’ve read whole the Chinese version and found it a little to elaborated to be written without a purpose. And it was surely a very successful way to stress the historical bonds between China and Germany for less educates readers. Just before Angie and Wen Yeye have had their coming out…

    By the way. I downloaded “Mein Kampf” to check the facts. No Chinese family.

    Italian Wisdom: Ferraris can come in any color as long as it’s red.

    Chinese Wisdom: It doesn’t matter whether the Ferrari is black or white or red, as long as it is mine. (Guo Meiling)

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