INTERVIEW/Germany strives for balancing act in relations with Taiwan, China: envoy

07/11/2021 07:09 PM
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Germany's representative to Taiwan Thomas Prinz. CNA photo July 10, 2021

Taipei, July 11 (CNA) Germany's representative to Taiwan Thomas Prinz, who is nearing the end of his tenure, said recently that his country has been trying to maintain a balance between its ties with Taiwan and its economic links with China.

In a recent exclusive interview with CNA, Prinz said Germany has good relations with Taiwan that are based on the shared values of freedom and democracy and strong bilateral trade, which totals about 18 billion euros (US$ 21.51 billion) annually.

Furthermore, there are potentially lots of opportunities for cooperation between Germany and Taiwan in the fields of renewable energy, 5G technologies, semiconductors, biotechnology and education, said Prinz, outgoing director general of the German Institute in Taipei.

Germany, however, also has strong economic ties to China, which requires a balancing act between the two sides, he said.

"On the one side, we want to have good relations with Taiwan," Prinz said. "It's a like-minded country which we want to support. On the other side, we are also economically very much interlinked with China, and somehow we have to balance that."

Prinz, who is about to move to his next diplomatic post in Nepal, said Germany is interested in keeping the status quo across the Taiwan Strait and is against the use of violence and threats by any side to change the status quo.

He expressed worry that Beijing's almost daily military sorties near Taiwan, such as the entry of Chinese military planes into Taiwan's air defense identification zone, may lead to an unplanned conflict.

"I think on the Taiwan side, the government is acting very responsibly," he said. "They try everything to avoid conflict, but at the same time, they have to make clear where the red lines are. So, I do not see an imminent conflict, but certainly danger is there."

On the question of Germany's reported plan to send a warship to the South China Sea later this year, Prinz said such an action will be carried out by his country for the first time in the East Asian region.

"It's a sign, it's a symbol," he said. "About the South China Sea, the position of the government is very clear to everybody. For us, that's international waters and we support freedom of navigation."

CNA photo July 10, 2021
CNA photo July 10, 2021

Prinz, who has been serving as Germany's de facto ambassador to Taipei since 2018, said that when he moves to Nepal later this month he will dearly miss Taiwan's cycling paths.

"I have been doing about 12,000 kilometers on my bike here in Taiwan during the last three years, so I've been practically everywhere on this island," he said.

Prinz said his favorite routes are the rift valley in eastern Taiwan, where the views are magnificent, and the coastal highway on the east coast, where cyclists can ride along the oceanfront.

Apart from the eastern routes, he also loves riding on the mountain roads in the Greater Taipei area on weekends, exploring places such as Luku, Pingxi and Wufenshan, he said.

When Prinz departs Taiwan, he will be succeeded by Jörg Polster, who is currently head of Economic Affairs and Globalization at the German Embassy in India.

According to Prinz, his successor was deputy head of the German Institute Taipei in the early 2000s and is married to a Taiwanese.

(By Chung Yu-chen and Emerson Lim)

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