When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

China Unleashed, Europe Paralyzed: A View From Germany

The Asian giant is like a super-charged Formula 1 car racing past a beautiful, but old Fiat 500.

Worker at one of various glass enterprises that strengthened Chinese science, technology innovation and market research
Worker at one of various glass enterprises that strengthened Chinese science, technology innovation and market research
Stefan Braun


BERLIN — Angela Merkel has been chancellor of Germany for nearly 13 years, and she travels to China almost once a year. She has visited vegetable markets and old shrines, talked to mayors and argued with party officials. She's seen German factories and examined Chinese companies. She's taken cooking classes and had driverless cars shown to her. No other country has aroused Merkel's curiosity as much as China.

This may be due to her belief that curiosity is a prerequisite for good governance. But there is a second, more important reason for Merkel's desire to travel eastwards: Pretty much everything that will decide Germany's future is tied to China.

China wants to become an economic world power and is using its rapid digitalization to do so. Beijing exemplifies authoritarianism so aggressively and consistently that it has become a counteroffer for those who doubt the efficiency of Western democracies. China has become a major economic and political challenge to Germany and Europe. For decades, the Old Continent could praise itself as a haven of democracy, openness to the world and economic success. China is about to establish a very powerful counter-model.

For anyone with an eye for modernity and dynamism, China is the future.

Relations with Beijing these days are therefore no longer a matter of having a few good or less-good talks, the sort that took place on Monday, June 9 at the German-Chinese government consultations. Nor are they about obtaining this or that billion-dollar order. What's at stake, rather, is whether Europe remains at eye level with China, or becomes a beggar.

Merkel receiving honorary doctorate from Nanjing University during her ninth trip to China — Photo: Jiangsu, China/Facebook

That last sentence sounds anxious and it's meant to be. Shifts over the last decade could hardly paint a different picture. China seems to be unleashed. Europe, by contrast, is more and more paralyzed. China's biggest concern is that it might no longer be able to offer its rapidly growing middle class enough novelty. Europe, meanwhile, is struggling with the fact that an underclass, cut off from the fruits of development, is emerging in many EU states. For anyone with an eye for modernity and dynamism, China is the future. The feeling is that of seeing a Formula 1 racing car rushing past a beautiful, but old Fiat 500.

The uncertainty is all the more pressing when you've truly experienced China's pace for a few days and then return to the German debates about the welfare state, pension levels and the minimum wage. That doesn't mean these debates aren't important. And it doesn't mean we should replace the tenacious struggle for solutions with an authoritarianism à la China.

But the contrast shows the different speeds at which Europe and China are traveling. And it reveals how irresponsible are all those who, for national-minded reasons, provoke divisions and make compromises difficult in Europe. It's like they still haven't realized what's going on around the world.

For Berlin and Brussels, the relationship with Beijing is a fateful balancing act. As much cooperation as possible, as much distance as necessary. This may sound banal, but it's crucial as a compass in dealing with China. The defense of human rights is no trifle. They make Europe. Giving them up means giving up on ourselves, on who we are.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest