German Chancellor Angela Merkel may no longer consider the U.S. under President Donald Trump a “friend,” but the European leader is finding a willing new partner in a different, and perhaps unexpected, global superpower: China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Berlin this week for what’s been described as a “highly-symbolic” state visit. Welcoming Xi on Wednesday, Merkel said the meeting — happening just days before the start of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg — was a “good opportunity” for the two countries “to expand and broaden our extensive strategic relations.”
She added that Germany and China could work together to “calm” the world’s unrest. “It is a great pleasure for us to welcome you here today at a time of turmoil in the world, when China and Germany can make a contribution to calming down this turmoil somewhat,” Merkel said, according to the Associated Press.
She did not elaborate on these comments, but her words have been interpreted as a reiteration of her earlier suggestion that America is no longer an entirely reliable ally for Europe.
Analysts say Trump’s tensions with Merkel and the German chancellor’s willingness to embrace China fits neatly with the Asian superpower’s owns ambitions.
“The election of Trump has facilitated China’s aims in Europe,” Angela Stanzel, an Asia scholar at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told the New York Times this week. “Trump facilitates China’s narrative of being the new defender of multilateralism and especially global free trade, and China sees Germany as defending that, too, as a kind of sidekick.”
″[I]t fits into the Chinese idea of creating an alternative leadership to the United States,” she added.
On Wednesday, Merkel and Xi shared a packed day of activities, opening a $10 million panda enclosure at the Berlin Zoo and watching a German-Chinese youth soccer match.
Xi said the two countries stood at the cusp of a “new beginning,” according to Bloomberg.
In May, after a challenging G-7 meeting of world leaders, Merkel signaled that Europe’s once-warm relationship with America had fundamentally changed.
“The times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days,” she said, adding that Europe will have to “fight for our future on our own.”
This week it emerged that Merkel’s party, tellingly, had stopped referring to America as a “most important friend” in campaign materials, instead using the term “most important partner” outside Europe.