Germany Has a New Player in Left-Wing Politics. Where Does It Stand on China?
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Germany Has a New Player in Left-Wing Politics. Where Does It Stand on China?

In the final days of October, Berlin found itself on the brink of a significant political upheaval. At the heart of this seismic shift was Sarah Wagenknecht, a former leader of Germany’s far-left Die Linke party, known for her prominent anti-mainstream takes on issues including COVID-19climate policy, and the war in Ukraine. Wagenknecht’s departure from Die Linke was a long-anticipated event, but coincided with the announcement of the birth of a new political entity known as BSW. BSW stands for “Bündnis Sarah Wagenknecht” (Alliance Sarah Wagenknecht) and will serve as a platform to facilitate the formation of a new left-wing political party.

Notably, this transition saw nine additional members of Die Linke’s parliamentary faction, including prominent figures like Amira Mohamed Ali, a former co-faction leader of Die Linke, and Sevim Dağdelen, a close associate of Wagenknecht, joining the exodus. For Die Linke, who has been plagued by internal power struggles and ideological turmoil in recent years, the departure of some of its most prominent members added even more uncertainty to its future trajectory.

Research indicates that Wagenknecht holds the potential to win support among left-wing voters, particularly those who espouse culturally right-wing values, harbor concerns about immigration, and exhibit dissatisfaction with the current state of democracy. While she enjoys greater popularity than Die Linke among a substantial segment of the population, she is finding less favor among left-liberal voters.

Wagenknecht’s unique position and capacity to straddle the left-right ideological divide has the potential to disrupt Germany’s party system. Recent opinion polls indicate that BSW has garnered substantial support, with projections ranging from 12 percent to 14 percent of the public. It’s a significant development considering that the far-right populist party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), currently hovers around the 20 percent mark in polls. This suggests that populist and anti-mainstream parties collectively represent a substantial portion of the German electorate.

Amid this political reconfiguration, one of the key questions pertains to BSW’s stance on China, especially as the AfD has come under increased scrutiny for its pro-China policy stance. In its founding manifesto, BSW places a strong emphasis on diplomacy, disarmament, and peace in its foreign policy. The party champions a balanced approach, stressing negotiations with China and Russia, while maintaining a focus on mutual interests and cooperation.

Within the realm of international affairs, BSW has taken a strong stance against the involvement of German troops in the South China Sea. Notably, they have criticized actions like the German government’s proposed regular deployment of ships to this region. This position echoes the longstanding principle of non-interventionism, an idea championed by Wagenknecht herself. Whether the current focus is on Ukraine or the possibility of future involvement in Taiwan, the call for non-interference remains a steadfast component of her worldview.

The overarching goal of BSW is to promote an independent Europe composed of sovereign democracies within a multipolar world, steering clear of entanglement in a great power rivalry between China and the United States.

Insights from prominent BSW figures, including Sarah Wagenknecht, Amira Mohamed Ali, and Sevim Dağdelen, reveal a shared perspective that challenges Germany’s current strategy of “decoupling” and “de-risking.” Within the BSW camp, voices like Dağdelen’s resonate as vocal critics of Washington’s anti-China approach, and of the European Union and Germany’s progressive alignment with U.S. policy. This stance finds echoes in the convictions of Amira Mohammed Ali and other BSW members, who staunchly oppose the China policy championed by Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s current foreign minister, who represents the environmentalist and social-liberal Green Party. BSW members argue that the actions of the current German government are evocative of a Cold War era, and have the potential to exacerbate global tensions.

BSW’s stance on China revolves around the belief that China is Germany’s most critical economic partner, pivotal for ensuring economic growth and the creation of high-quality employment opportunities for Germans. The party asserts the need for a pragmatic and rational China policy, which also extends to their vision for addressing the situation in Ukraine. Importantly, most BSW members have a reputation for being pro-Russian.

The relatively amicable stance taken by BSW towards Russia and China, reminiscent of Die Linke’s position, might be rooted in a path dependency that traces back to Die Linke’s origins as an offshoot of the Socialist Unity Party, which governed former East Germany as a one-party dictatorship for four decades. In the present day, Die Linke has embraced Anglo-American notions of identity politics, emphasizing concerns such as racism, environmentalism, sexism, and cultural appropriation. Built on this platform, the party has seen a consistent decline in voter support and came perilously close to failing to secure a place in the federal parliament during the 2021 elections. Notably, Wagenknecht emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of the party’s course.

In contrast, Wagenknecht and the BSW embody a distinct strain of left-wing politics, marked by a leaning towards social conservatism which could lead to a closer alignment with entities like the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Wagenknecht, who earned a Ph.D. in economics, has previously lauded the CCP’s economic and industrial policies, holding China as an exemplary model for how to manage a national economy.

Although BSW’s stance on China may appear to diverge from the German political mainstream, it aligns closely with the views of figures like Maximilian Krah from the AfD. This underlines a significant common ground between BSW and AfD, with both parties now collectively polling at over 30 percent, and reflects the growing discontent among certain segments of the German electorate with the country’s political elites and its current trajectory.

BSW’s electoral future remains uncertain, particularly given its close association with Wagenknecht, and comparisons with short-lived political movements like Austria’s Team Stronach are not far-fetched. Organizing a party around a single person is a risky move and often leads to failure. The extent to which BSW and AfD will either attract new supporters or compete for the same voter base is a question that only time will answer. Success, in this volatile political landscape, is by no means guaranteed.

Amid the dynamic world of international politics, Germany finds itself in a significant juncture as significant political players question the China policy embraced by its current center-left government, which leans towards a decidedly anti-Chinese and pro-U.S. political strategy. This introspection highlights a discernible change within Germany’s political landscape, demonstrating an increasing resistance within certain segments of the country’s political class and its electorate to the decision to sever connections with China. Over the past two decades, Germany has maintained a unique partnership with China, one that has driven economic growth, fostering a sense of economic security and prosperity among its citizens.

This evolution in Germany’s approach should attract the attention of U.S. observers. As AfD and BSW articulate distinctive foreign policy visions, their stances are by no means isolated within the broader European landscape. One only must think of the ongoing swing to the right in many European countries. The pursuit of a more geopolitically independent Europe is a sentiment that is gaining ground, with even French President Emmanuel Macron echoing similar sentiments earlier this year.

For the U.S., the evolving stance of Germany raises pertinent questions about the future of the transatlantic partnership. As one of its closest European allies reassesses its priorities, Washington could face the challenge of progressively unruly European allies in the years to come – just as European liberals cautiously eye off the possibility of a second Trump presidency.

Source : The Diplomat