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German Ambassador Raises Concerns Over Difficulties Faced by German Businesses in China

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German Ambassador Raises Concerns Over Difficulties Faced by German Businesses in China

China’s Foreign Ministry criticized the ambassador for being “unprofessional and irresponsible.”

German Ambassador Raises Concerns Over Difficulties Faced by German Businesses in China
Credit: Fickr/Hernán Piñera

Friction between China and Germany is on the rise.

On December 22, the South China Morning Post published an interview with Michael Clauss, the German Ambassador to China. During the interview, Clauss raised concerns over a series of political issues. The interview prompted an immediate backlash in China.

Clauss told the South China Morning Post that German companies have complained about several issues in China, including the country’s new cybersecurity law which came into effect in June, Beijing’s increasingly tight control over VPNs (a third-party service that allows netizens in China to bypass the Great Firewall and access the uncensored international internet), forced technology transfers in exchange for business operations in China, and increasing discrimination and obstruction as a result of state intervention and administrative measures.

Clauss said:

[W]e cannot deny the various indications looming on the horizon that conditions for foreign businesses in China are changing and apparently not in a positive direction. China’s economic success story will obviously lead to more competition in our economic relations. However, it has to be noted that the increased competition is not always based on fair and equitable conditions for all market players. More and more German companies approach the embassy and express their grievances…

Faced with Clauss’s criticism, Hua Chunying, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, fought back at the regular press conference on December 27. She lashed Clauss for being “unprofessional and irresponsible.” She said:

Frankly speaking, this ambassador is not acting in that vein and his words and deeds are far from constructive and in fact very wrong. Some of his arguments cannot be further from truth and even worse, they confuse right and wrong… We hope that the German Embassy and the relevant person avoid such unprofessional and irresponsible remarks and do more to promote China-German relations and mutually beneficial cooperation.

She claimed that “China has always been open to exchanges and cooperation with Germany on cyber security issues” and also noted that Beijing has repeatedly invited the German side to visit China for consultations.

“Instead of sending any delegation, the German side accused China of lack of sincerity for dialogue, which is absolutely unreasonable,” she explained.

However, beyond the cybersecurity issue, Hua didn’t really touch upon these German companies’ complaints involving business operations.

As The Diplomat has been following, in late November, German companies publicly threatened to retreat from China. The Delegations of German Industry and Commerce in China (AHK China) — which represents the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce in China — issued a strong statement threatening to pull out of the Chinese market if the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues its attempt to interfere with foreign companies’ internal business.

The statement didn’t receive a positive reply from the Chinese side. Clauss’s interview appeared to be a follow-up measure for Germany to voice its grievances.