The business news service Axios disclosed on October 6, that it had learnt that a high-ranking German official suppressed a sensitive intelligence report in 2018 on China’s growing influence in Germany out of fear it would damage business ties with China. The highly sensitive report, completed in 2018, examined the Chinese government’s attempts to influence every level of German government, society and business, according to two former U.S. intelligence officials. It cast a particularly harsh light on the intimate ties between German business and the Chinese government, but before it could be widely disseminated within the German government a high-ranking official intervened. It quoted one official as saying German Chancellor Angela Merkel also saw the report, but few others did. Noah Barkin, an expert on Europe-China relations at the Rhodium Group, said “There has been a lot of self-censorship in Germany with regard to China.  Merkel’s approach has been to criticize China behind closed doors, rather than in public.” Noah Barkin added: “Germany has traditionally viewed China through an economic prism, not a security prism. That has really begun to change this year. Germans are coming to the realization that they need to establish red lines, that they need to push China more forcefully, and that they need to emphasize human rights.”

(Comment: Things have started to change, however, with German officials asking Chinese Foreign Minister pointed questions about human rights violations, concentration camps in Xinjiang etc. Merkel's business first policy with China is also facing domestic resistance and chances are that she may be replaced by a more hawkish Chancellor next year. Also, in September, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced she will push for a European Magnitsky Act, a sanctions regime modelled on the U.S. framework intended to punish governments and officials who violate human rights.)

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