Praise of Angela Merkel
We criticize more than praise. Good news is not news. Sensationalizing everything to attract attention to income, the modern media is barely spinning to prove that free speech is an end in itself. But words don’t make sense if there is no action. Flaming or flowery rhetoric cannot mask the fact that most politicians have broken their promises. Therefore, we should congratulate those leaders who look dull but performed spectacularly and achieved everything they did quietly and smoothly.
Angela Merkel is stepping down as German Chancellor after 16 years at the helm. If she leaves office at the end of this year, she will have beaten the service of her mentor, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who served from 1982 to 1998. Kohl seized the historic opportunity to reunite Germany, but Angela Merkel would be recognized in history. as a centrist and pragmatic builder on this foundation. Lower leaders would have missed or wasted this opportunity.
This is no small feat for the only woman leader of the G7, if not the G20. Apart from Russian President Putin, who has been in de facto leadership since 1999, no one has served longer or faced more crises that have stumbled many of their male compatriots. Under his leadership, Germany consolidated its position as the world’s fourth-largest economy, as Japan rose from second to third, the United Kingdom from fourth to fifth, France from sixth to seventh, and Italy from seventh to eighth. .
Angela is also the most intellectually skilled of her peers, having earned a PhD in quantum chemistry, but she is neither proud nor flashy. When asked why she often wore the same costume, she replied, “I am a government employee and not a model.”
Born in West Germany but raised in East Germany, she was the first female Chancellor, the first born after World War II and the first from East Germany. Its centrist, pragmatic, cautious and discreet leadership was exactly what Germany needed during a difficult period of integration between the socialist East and the advanced western parts. Former Chancellor Gerhard Schroder (1998-2005) led the coalition of the Social Democratic Party and the Greens which refused to endorse the invasion of Iraq. This period saw very difficult economic restructuring and German economic integration in the face of high labor costs and severe manufacturing competition from Japan and the Asian global supply chain. But at the end of the Schröder period, the country was in need of healing, which Merkel provided.
The first major crisis was the global financial crisis of 2008, which hit Germany hard in terms of exports, but also through the enormous damage to the European banking system due to excessive investments in US financial derivatives, as well. as non-performing loans to southern European countries. countries. The 2008/2009 European debt crisis divided the European Union into weak debtors and strong creditors. Unlike the Asian economies in crisis in 1997/9, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain were unable to devalue their output, although the weakening of the euro and exports to China have helped. The austerity campaign demanded by European surplus economies has alienated many debtors in the South, forced to tighten their belts humiliating and painful. Merkel had to balance the national right-wing conservatives who demanded austerity with the reality that European unity remained fundamental to German peace and stability. The euro and the European Union survived the crisis, but internal fractures have become more open, with Brexit and right-wing populism as major consequences.
The second crisis Merkel survived was the influx of refugees in 2015. In that year, the number of migrant arrivals in Europe was almost one million, including the number of asylum seekers in Germany. alone was half a million, with 750,000 the following year. While the increase in the number of migrants worried many in Europe, Merkel said: “We can do it”. It sent a human message that Germany took in the refugees, half of whom came from Syria. This courageous statement unfortunately did not please some supporters of Merkel and her party lost many seats in the next election.
It was Merkel’s foreign policy that impressed Asians the most, in particular. The key principles were an avowed alliance between Europe and the North Atlantic, a strong belief in multilateralism and trade, and the firm belief that global solutions are better resolved through negotiations than through military intervention. Over time, this reflected a more independent line than that of the United States.
In 2013, Der Spiegel The magazine surprisingly claimed that the United States had been tapping Merkel’s phone since 2002, which sparked outrage in Germany. But it was the election of President Donald Trump in 2016 that triggered a review of US-European relations. In May 2017, after the controversial G7 and NATO meetings, Merkel insisted that Europe could no longer count on the United States and Britain and that it was time “to take our fate. in hand “.
Merkel’s philosophy is best summed up by her brilliant Harvard 2019 launch speech. Her six lessons were: “Acting together for the benefit of the moderate lateral global world. Keep asking yourself,” Am I doing something because that it is fair, or simply because it is possible? “Remember that freedom is never something that can be taken for granted. Surprise yourself with what is possible. Remember that openness always comes with risk. Letting go of the old fact. part of the new beginning. Above all, nothing can be taken for granted. Everything is possible.
Angela Merkel’s quantum scientist enabled her to understand the new era of “quantum politics” where, in the face of massive uncertainty, the politician must recognize that anything is possible and that nothing can be taken for granted. But she had the moral conviction that peace is best achieved by working together, to heal and transition to a better start. She had the good sense to seek the truth, knowing “not to describe lies as the truth and the truth as lies.”
At a time when the West seemed adrift, the East admires Germany and Europe precisely because Merkel projected the virtues of humility, poise, stability and simple common sense. Asia in particular will need these qualities to survive the coming turmoil.
Andrew Sheng from Malaysia is Assistant Professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing and University of Malaysia. He was previously chairman of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission. He is a columnist for Asia News Network.