Germany Courts China as Part of New Asia Thrust

Article excerpt

GERMANY once again is seeking to become a major international player in the Far East after more than 75 years of relative inactivity in the region.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl is inaugurating Germany's new Asia policy with a week-long visit to China that began Monday. The policy in general, and the trip in particular, are driven by Bonn's desire to expand markets for its export-oriented economy, which remains mired in a stubborn recession. China, in contrast, has the world's fastest growing economy, expanding at an estimated 13 percent this year. It is looking for international investment to fuel further development.

The Asia initiative is confirmation that Germany is not counting entirely on traditional political and economic alliances, especially the European Union, to generate an economic revival, some experts here say. Others say the expansion of ties with the Far East is a natural outgrowth of Germany's reunification in 1990.

"A new orientation of Germany's policy towards Asia is overdue," said an editorial in the centrist General Anzeiger newspaper. "The concentration on progress regarding European integration and the emphasis on Trans-Atlantic relations with the United States have resulted in the neglect of the continent with giant economic potential for far too long."

There is also domestic political consideration behind Mr. Kohl's Far East foray. The German recession has greatly eroded popular support for Kohl's government, and with parliamentary elections next October, the chancellor is hoping the Asia initiative will bolster his Christian Democratic Union's chances of winning.

Kohl is making it clear to his Chinese hosts that Germany is seeking a major economic role in Asia. Accompanying the chancellor are 40 top executives of major German companies - including Volkswagen, Daimler-Benz, and Siemens AG. …