Qingdao and Europe’s Return to Asia

I’m in Qingdao, China, this week, a Qing dynasty stronghold that was ceded to Germany and used as a Pacific base for the German imperial navy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today it is still home a famous German brewery, and just two weeks ago played host to the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. As both Germany and China sign new trade and investment agreements to deepen their ties and hedge against Trump’s erratic economic policy, it is important to remember the many ways in which China seeks inspiration from Germany: Marxist and Communist ideas of course emerged from 19th century Germany, and Germany is the standard-bearer for late 20th century industrial capitalism and social democracy. The EU-Japan free trade agreement is another recent example of how Europe is returning to Asia not as colonizers but economic partners and investors. The EU is China’s largest trading partner, and European trade with Asia is $300 billion greater annually than EU-US trade. I explore all of these themes in greater depth in my forthcoming book The Future is Asian: Commerce, Conflict & Culture in the 21st Century, to be published in February 2019.

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