Germany Joins the ‘Indo-Pacific’ Club


On Wednesday, Germany’s Federal Foreign Office announced a set of Indo-Pacific policy guidelines, becoming the second European nation after France to formally adopt a strategy for the Indo-Pacific region.

According to a press release accompanying the announcement (the full 40-page guideline is yet to appear in English translation), the strategy is designed to allow Germany to make “an active contribution to shaping the international order in the Indo-Pacific.” As Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was quoted as saying in the press statement, the Indo-Pacific, “is where the shape of the international rules-based order of tomorrow will be decided. We want to help shape that order—so that it is based on rules and international cooperation, not on the law of the strong.”
Berlin’s Indo-Pacific guidelines foreground maritime security cooperation, human rights, and the diversification of Germany’s economic partnerships in the Indo-Pacific in order for it and regional partners to “to avoid unilateral dependencies.”

On one level, the strategy is a simple concession to economic and geopolitical reality. Asia has long been Germany’s largest export market outside of Europe itself, and its economy remains heavily reliant on the global supply chains and open sea lanes that speed German-made cars and other goods to fast-growing Asian markets. It recognizes that the growing strategic uncertainty in the Indo-Pacific—due both to China’s increasing assertiveness in the region and the American push back that this has engendered—is likely to have direct impact on Germany’s future prosperity and security. Conversely, improved partnerships with other nations in the Indo-Pacific will undoubtedly help Germany handle many of the global challenges posed by an increasingly brash and ambitious China.

Particularly notable, according to one leading expert, is the context and timing of the German announcement. On July 1, Germany assumed the EU Council’s six-monthly rotating presidency, putting it in a position to shape the bloc’s approach to the Indo-Pacific throughout the remainder of its term. The announcement also follows a five-nation European tour by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, which, as Eleanor Albert noted in The Diplomat this week, was intended to shore up ailing Chinese partnerships in the region. His colleague Yang Jiechi, the head of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission, is also visiting Spain and Greece this week.