ZDF Documentary on Germany-China: When Smiling Kindness Hurts

When it comes to beer, the world is very simple. Let’s look at Qingdao, China, 12,000 kilometers away from Berlin. Here was the colonial-era German model colony. Yesterday’s Germania brewery is still present today. “Everyone in China drinks Tsingtao beer,” assures a journalist as she talks about what is now the largest brewery in the vast country – which has preserved the historic boiler room with the German inscriptions to this day. At the opening of the Chinese beer festival, people dance in dirndl dresses with plastic beer mugs. This first fusion of Chinese and Western culture has become a success story.

The world is only simple when it comes to beer

The oily simplicity is misleading. The ZDF documentary “We Germans and China” shows how multifaceted and complex the connection between Germany and China is. In the beginning, the German Empire was scary.

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the present and future of our world

In his speech on the deployment of German soldiers, which went down in history as the “Hun speech”, Emperor Wilhelm II demanded that Germany’s name be made so known, “that a Chinese would never again dare to look askance at a German “. . The so-called protection troops marched, murdered and murdered to manifest the German reputation. Today, we are the good guys in Germany – and look with suspicion at a China that, with human rights violations and declarations of friendship with Putin, provides sufficient reasons to be looked down upon.

There is fear on the German and Chinese side – and strange realization

The colonial past is unforgettable. As the President of China assured on the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party: “We will never again be subjugated by foreign powers. Anyone who tries this will see bloodshed on a great wall of steel.”

So fear on both sides, and in abundance. But also an acknowledgment that seems strange from today’s perspective. Consider NSDAP member John Rabe (“The Good Nazi,” New York Times). When the Japanese invaded China in 1937, he saved 200,000 Chinese from being attacked. And celebrated to this day. “In China, we honor John Rabe,” said President Xi Jinping.

Helmut Schmidt shook hands with a dictator who killed 70 million people

History gives similarities in their dates. In 1949, Mao proclaimed the Communist People’s Republic. The Federal Republic of Germany was also founded in 1949. Bonn first recognized China in 1973. In 1975, Helmut Schmidt, the first Chancellor, traveled to Beijing and shook hands with Mao – a dictator “who at the time had estimated 70 million people on his conscience”. as the sinologist Kai Vogelsang judged in the ZDF documentary, “and congratulated him on his successful policy”.

Business comes first, morality much later. The renunciation of the Social Democrat, who has not a word to say about human rights in China, is paying off. Trade advantages. In 1983, the first VW factory was built in China. Today, the group is the largest car manufacturer in China. Chancellors Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schröder are expanding the collaboration and knowledge transfer “so that both people benefit”. “Change through trade was a reassuring illusion,” comments Professor Vogelsang, “that does not work in a party state like China.”

When smiling kindness hurts

China is Germany’s most important trading partner. Since Putin’s attack on Ukraine, we’ve seen how fast the money made stinks to heaven. Not all politicians today like to see the pictures where he shakes hands and smiles at the cameras next to the aggressor. Nor is everyone who likes to be reminded of his hugs against the Chinese rulers. And would like even more distance than the 12,000 kilometers from Quingdao to Berlin. Smiling kindness can hurt. The story is cruel there.