Foreign media reported late last month that German Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier had written a letter to Vice Premier Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津) and Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) asking Taiwan to help Germany resolve a chip shortage that is jeopardizing the recovery of its automobile industry.
Local media then reported that Wang conveyed Altmaier’s message to executives at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) — the world’s largest contract chipmaker — making it clear that the government has expressed its goodwill to Berlin by taking prompt and concrete action.
Despite this, at a news conference on Jan. 25, German Federal Foreign Office spokeswoman Maria Adebahr once again emphasized that the German government’s Taiwan policy remains unchanged, and that it continues to adhere to its “one China” policy.
Germany asking Taiwan for assistance without treating the country as a friend is a forceful slap in Wang’s face.
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out last year, Taiwan in April donated 1 million masks to Germany after boosting its mask production capacity, but still the German government simply expressed its gratitude to the assistance “from other countries.”
The major German weekly Bild even ran a report about Germany not thanking Taiwan for the donations, asking if it was because Germany fears China.
In the past few years, Taiwan has launched a project to build submarines that is to cost more than NT$500 billion (US$17.6 billion).
In the mid-1980s it had a chance to acquire from Argentina a TR-1700 submarine built by the German shipbuilding company Nordseewerke, but the purchase was aborted after Germany refused to issue an export permit, a refusal that caused problems for Taiwan.
When Taiwan in the 2000s attempted to purchase German-made rocket launchers for the domestically developed “Thunderbolt-2000” multiple launch rocket system, the German government once again refused to issue a permit, forcing Taiwan to buy remodeled German MAN TGS commercial vehicles and importing them to Taiwan as South Korean products in 2009. It is fair to say that Germany is not very friendly to Taiwan.
Moreover, before Germany’s presidency of the Council of the EU ended last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made an all-out effort to push for a mutual investment agreement between the EU and China.
Despite reminders from councilors of Beijing’s persecution of Uighurs in the Xinjiang region while selling products made in Xinjiang’s concentration camps to Europe, the EU, driven on by Germany, still announced in Dec. 30 that the two parties had agreed in principle on a comprehensive investment agreement.
Germany’s strong leaning toward China of course raised doubts among some other EU member states such as Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Poland.
The problem is quite simple: Germany is China’s largest trading partner in Europe. Their interests are closely aligned.
Based on the principle of “follow the money,” Berlin is unlikely to elevate its diplomatic relationship with Taiwan, and there is no need for the Taiwanese government to rush off and demand that TSMC increase its capital expenditures to expand production capacity simply due to a letter from the German economics minister.
Such a demand for expansion could even have an effect opposite to the one intended, as it would increase the risk of future reductions in production capacity.
Chang Feng-lin is a university administrative staff member.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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