The human rights policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, Peter Heidt, defended the trip to Taiwan by Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP). “It goes without saying that every minister has the right to exchange ideas with other countries and regions,” he told the German Press Agency.

He welcomes the trip. Taiwan is an extremely important partner, especially when it comes to semiconductors. “For that reason alone we cannot and will not let China dictate the rules of the game.” On the contrary, scientific exchange should be further expanded.

The last visitor was also an FDP politician

Stark-Watzinger is traveling to Taiwan this Monday. Talks with government, science and business representatives, primarily from the fields of education, research and technology, are planned for Tuesday and Wednesday in the capital Taipei. According to the ministry, it is the first German ministerial visit to the democratic island republic in 26 years. The last Federal Minister to travel there in 1997 was the then Economics Minister Günter Rexrodt (FDP).

Against the background of the tensions between China and Taiwan, the trip has a signal effect. Taiwan considers itself independent, for China the island belongs to the People’s Republic. Beijing rejects any form of official diplomatic contacts between Taiwan and other countries. The Federal Ministry of Education emphasized in advance that it was a “professional visit”. The focus is on the exchange on increased cooperation in the areas of semiconductor research, green hydrogen and battery research. Stark-Watzinger himself spoke of an “exploration and research policy” trip.

Chinese embassy upset

The FDP politician will be accompanied by the chairman of the Bundestag’s education and research committee, Kai Gehring. In his eyes, closer cooperation with Taiwan in the areas of education, science, research and digitization “makes a lot of sense”, as he told the dpa. The Green politician referred to the challenges posed by the climate crisis and “securing German and European technological sovereignty”.

“As part of Germany’s one-China policy, it is important to continue the scientific, innovation and technology policy cooperation between Berlin and Taipei to the benefit of both sides and to sound out its further intensification,” Gehring said about the aim of the visit to Taiwan.

The Chinese embassy in Berlin had previously expressed its anger at the trip and called on Germany to “abide by the one-China principle without compromise.” The one-China doctrine of the communist leadership in Beijing does not allow any country to have relations with both the People’s Republic and Taiwan.

War in Ukraine raises concerns

Like most countries, Germany does not officially have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Before the trip, the Foreign Office (AA) said that there were close and good relations below the threshold of international recognition. Regular exchanges and mutual visits by the responsible ministers are “completely normal”. According to the AA, Taiwan is Germany’s fifth most important trading partner in Asia.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, international concerns grew that China might take similar action against Taiwan. Beijing did not condemn the Russian attack. China’s President Xi Jinping is expected to pay a state visit to Moscow this Monday. In the event of an attack on Taiwan, the United States would also be drawn into the conflict because it is committed to Taiwan’s ability to defend itself.

A war over Taiwan could have major repercussions – including on Germany. Taiwan is number 22 of the major economies, industrially well developed, strongly intertwined with the global economy and is one of the most important locations for the production of microchips, which are built into smartphones, for example.