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Germany’s Value-based Partnerships in the Indo-Pacific

SWP Research Paper 2024/RP 04, 27.03.2024, 25 Pages

doi:10.18449/2024RP04

Research Areas

Dr Felix Heiduk is Head of the Asia Division at SWP.

The author would like to thank Simona Beckemeier for her support with the overall research and the realisation of data analysis with MAXQDA.

  • Diversifying Germany’s bilateral partnerships in the Indo-Pacific is one of the central goals of German policy. On the one hand, this diversification aims to reduce economic dependence on China, and on the other – in the context of systemic rivalry with authoritarian states – to bring about cooperation with states that share common values with Germany, so-called Wertepartnern (value-based partners).

  • However, it is not clearly defined which values are fundamental to value-based partnerships. It also remains unclear which states in the Indo-Pacific are referred to as value-based partners and how these value-based partnerships differ from “normal” bilateral relations with other states in the region.

  • Instead, this study shows that the significance that is rhetorically attached to cooperation with value-based partners is at odds with the vague concept of “value-based partnership” and its limited importance as a basis for bilateral cooperation.

  • A comparison of value-based partners with a control group of non-value-based partners across different policy areas produces mixed results. The assumed correlation between being categorised as a value-based partner and closer international cooperation based on shared norms and values cannot, with any coherence, be demonstrated empirically.

  • A comprehensive revision of the hitherto diffuse concept of value-based partnerships is recommended – either by normative sharpening, combined with a narrowing of the circle of states designated as value-based partners, or by eradicating the term from the political vocabulary.

Issues and Recommendations

The Indo-Pacific between the east coast of Africa and the American Pacific coast is the most economically dynamic region in the world and is also the centre of the Sino-American great power rivalry. A destabilisation of even parts of this region due to further de­terio­ration in Sino-US relations would have a massive negative impact on Germany’s economic interests in the Indo-Pacific. For decades, Germany has overtly fostered ties with one regional partner: the People’s Republic of China. An over-dependence on the People’s Republic of China, which has been growing for decades, must now be reduced by a diversification of its partnerships. However, reducing Germany’s economic dependence on China is not the only aim. Rather, the debate about the diversification of region­al partners is embedded in a broader international con­text, wherein Germany sees itself as being in global systemic competition with authoritarian states, par­ticularly China. Germany has therefore been increas­ingly searching for new partners in the Indo-Pacific for some time.

Special importance is therefore attached to so-called value-based partnerships – partners who are perceived as like-minded and with whom Germany shares common values in the context of systemic com­petition between liberal democracies and authori­tarian, illiberal states. Beyond such generalisations, however, the concept of value-based partnerships remains largely nebulous. Decision-makers do not clearly specify which values are constitutive for value-based partnerships, nor which states in the region are counted as value-based partners nor how such part­ner­ships differ from “normal” bilateral relations with other states in the region. This lack of clarity forms the starting point of this study.

The following analysis makes it clear that the im­portance rhetorically attached to cooperation with so‑called value-based partners is not only at odds with the vague concept of value partnerships, but also with its limited significance in practice. This becomes apparent, firstly, by the fact that the term “value-bas­ed partners” is applied to a thoroughly hetero­geneous group of states whose members have very different qualities in terms of democratic governance. Secondly, analysis of the attributes used in connec­tion with value-based partnerships shows that the majority of attributes used do not focus so much on normative aspects of governance, but rather on the expected international behaviour of those value-based partners – for example, regarding the preservation of rules-based international order. A third finding of the study is that there is no observable correlation between attribution as a value-based partner and close international cooperation with a state characterised as such on the basis of shared norms and values. On the contrary, the comparison of value-based part­ners with a control group of non-value-based partners across different policy areas (including international human rights policy, as well as protection of the rule of law) produces mixed results. Hence, the assumed correlation between being characterised as a value-based partner and closer international cooperation based on shared norms and values cannot really be demonstrated empirically.

In view of these findings, a comprehensive revision of the hitherto diffuse concept of value-based part­ner­ships is recommended. At least two approaches to revise the concept are conceivable here: One possi­bility would be to sharpen the concept in the sense of a narrow framework of norms based on liberal values. Consequently, some of the current value-based part­ners would no longer be labelled as such. The circle of value-based partners in the Indo-Pacific would thus be limited to a few states with which there is an exten­sive convergence of norms and with which in­ternational cooperation in the respective policy areas could be closely coordinated. The other option would be to tacitly eradicate the vague, incoherent term “value-based partnership” from the political vocabulary. Instead of using this label to refer to a value-based special relationship with certain states, the search for partners in the Indo-Pacific would then focus on common interests. This would also be more in line with established practices of German foreign policy in the region.

Searching for partners in the Indo-Pacific: more diversifica­tion, less focus on China

The Indo-Pacific is of increasing geo-economic sig­nifi­cance to Germany due to its strong economic dyna­mism. The Indo-Pacific region is not only home to important trade and investment partners, such as China, Japan, South Korea, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN),1 but is also gen­erally home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world. However, the Indo-Pacific is much more than a geographical or economic area. The concept of the Indo-Pacific is also a response to the rise of China and Beijing’s associated claim to power in the region. The latter’s claim to power is perceived as a strategic challenge not only by the USA, but also by an in­creas­ing number of neighbouring states. Thus, the Indo-Pacific is also a decidedly geopolitical term, particular­ly since it is precisely in this region that the US-Chi­nese rivalry is primarily being played out, the course of which will have a decisive influence on the development of the future regional and international order.2

In 2020, the German government under Chancellor Angela Merkel took these broader developments into account when drawing up its guidelines on the Indo-Pacific: they not only defined Germany’s interests in the region, but also set out a series of foreign policy objectives. One of the central goals – which is also true of the current German government – is to reduce Germany’s economic dependence on China. The main reason for this is that Berlin does not see China under the leadership of Xi Jinping as simply an economic partner, but increasingly as a competitor and systemic rival. Reducing Germany’s economic de­pendence on China, often referred to as “de-risk­ing” in Berlin, is to be achieved primarily by diversifying Berlin’s relations, i.e. by turning to other partners in the region.3

For decades, Germany’s Asia policy focused on bi­lateral cooperation with the People’s Republic of China. Other Asian states, even regional heavyweights such as Japan or India, played no prominent role in strategic debates or in Germany’s observable foreign and security policy behaviour; they also played sec­ond fiddle with regards to Germany’s trade and invest­ment in Asia.

From Berlin’s perspective, however, diversification is not solely due to economic over-dependency. Rather, the debate about diversifying regional part­ners is part of a broader international context in which Germany is embedded into a global systemic competition:4 authoritarian states, above all China and Russia, are challenging liberal democracies. They do so, according to the dominant view in Berlin, not only by putting pressure on the rules-based order, inter­national law and universal human rights, but also by attempting to weaken liberal societies through hybrid threats, disinformation and manipulation.

In the diversification process, special attention is paid to partners with whom Germany shares common values.

Therefore, regarding Germany’s partners in the Indo-Pacific, diversification is also always about “strengthening the political dimension of relations”. Hence, “closing ranks with the democracies and value-based partners in the region” is of particular importance.5 Particular attention is therefore paid to those partners who are perceived as “like-minded”6 and with whom Germany shares common values.

This is also the view of the current German gov­ernment, which refers to a “values-based”7 positioning of German foreign policy in the coalition agree­ment and aims to intensify relations with value-based partners in the Indo-Pacific region.8 There are already initial signs of this, for example in security policy: Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand attended a NATO summit as guests for the first time in 2022. And countries from Europe, including Ger­many with the deployment of its frigate “Bayern”, are in turn becoming increasingly involved in security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

This approach assumes that such countries represent close and reliable partners for German foreign policy in the Indo-Pacific chiefly because of a con­gruence of norms and values. However, it is striking that in the debate on diversification, it is neither officially specified which group of states in the Indo-Pacific region belong to the category of “value-based partners”, nor is it clearly defined which values exactly are constitutive for such partnerships. The latter fact has become a target for critics of a so-called values-based German foreign policy.9

Furthermore, Political science research on Ger­many’s special relations, which also deals with sub-categories like “strategic partnerships”, “value part­nerships” and other forms of bilateral relations, also provides hardly any insights regarding Asia or the Indo-Pacific. For a long time, this strand of research focused on Germany’s relations with other European countries such as France or Poland, with Israel or its transatlantic partnerships. Any special relations between Germany and countries in Asia or the Indo-Pacific, on the other hand, with the exception of the German-Chinese strategic partnership,10 have not to date been subject to much research. In general, the debate about value-based partners in the Indo-Pacific remains nebulous and difficult to grasp.

This study therefore examines three closely related research questions. Firstly, which states are labelled as value-based partners on the German side, and which bilateral relations with states in the region are understood as value-based partnerships? Secondly, which norms and values are central to value-based partnerships in the Indo-Pacific? And thirdly, how do the so-called value-based partnerships differ (conceptually and in practice) from “normal” bilateral rela­tions with states in the region? The time-frame under investigation covers the years from 2020 (the year in which the term “Indo-Pacific” entered official parlance; until then, the term “Asia-Pacific” was used) to 2022.

Although the term “value-based partnerships” with reference to the Indo-Pacific has only been in use for a few years, this study assumes that the partnerships themselves are based on an assumed convergence of values that already existed in the past. This previous convergence of norms and values then forms the his­torical foundation on which the classification as value-based partners now takes place. Otherwise, the alternative supposition would be that value-based partnerships are linked to primarily transformative assumptions; in other words, characterisation as a value-based partner would lead to a liberal transformation in the partner in the future and ultimately bring about a later convergence of values in the medium or long term.

Given that the term “value-based partner” or “value-based partnership” is primarily a political attribution, used by political decision-makers, rather than an analytical concept or category, this study proceeds inductively. The first step is to identify the value-based partners in the Indo-Pacific. This can be done by drawing on an extensive corpus of docu­ments from strategy papers and other official docu­ments, transcripts of parliamentary debates and press conferences as well as media interviews. In the second step, the norms and values most frequently mentioned in connection with the value-based part­ners or partnerships in the Indo-Pacific are identified by means of a qualitative content analysis of the docu­ment corpus. Because the actual values and norms are almost never listed exhaustively, their im­portance and bearing are inferred from the salience of attributes that are used to describe the normative foundation of value-based partnerships. The more frequently that attributes such as “democracy/demo­cratic” or “rule of law” are mentioned in official docu­ments (higher salience), the more important a particu­lar attribute is for the value-based partnerships.

Finally, in the third step, a number of key policy areas for Germany’s international cooperation with value-based partners are identified. A comparison between eight of the named value-based partners and an equally large control group of non-value-based part­ners11 is used to analyse whether the assumed norm convergence that forms the basis of value-based partnerships holds across actual policy areas, and whether differences in Germany’s cooperation with value-based partners and non-value-based partners correlate with the status of the state in question.

Value-based partnerships as special relations in international politics

The term “special relationship” has been used fre­quently over previous decades at the diplomatic level to characterise bilateral relations in international politics. It goes back to Winston Churchill, who described the warm relations between the USA and the United Kingdom as a “special relationship” in 1946, citing their close historical, cultural, political, economic and, in particular, military ties.12 Since then, policy-makers and academics alike have used the term to describe or analyse a fairly diverse set of bilateral relationships. In addition to the relationship between Washington and London, French-German, Israeli-German, Polish-German and US-Australian relations have also been labelled as special relation­ships, amongst others. However, the popularity of the term and concept is at least partly at odds with its lack of analytical and definitional clarity. It is generally recognised that special relations

  • (almost) always involve bilateral relations between states or state-like entities,

  • have a particular and exclusive character, thereby going beyond the formal equality of all states codified in international law,

  • almost always are to be understood as a positive attribute and

  • are often interpreted as a permanent, stable coun­terpart to temporary, ad hoc partnerships, both by the partners themselves and by third parties.13

It is also argued that special relationships differ from “normal” bilateral relationships in that the former are not based solely on shared political, eco­nomic and material interests. They are also based on a common set of values.14 A second argument posits that regime type (democracy) is constitutive for the formation and continuation of a special relationship. While seemingly logical and straightforward, this argu­ment raises more questions than it answers. Firstly, a pure, completely utilitarian politics of inter­est rarely occurs in reality. Secondly, the significance of democratic governance for the emergence of spe­cial relationships has been called into question by com­parative research. Comparative analyses have shown that both democratic and authoritarian states enter into special relationships: “[…] the establishment and continued existence of special relationships between states [cannot] be clearly attributed to the complementarity of the regime type”.15

Rather, systematically collected findings suggest that a combination of “material objectives” and “ideal­istic convictions” prompts governments to seek or maintain special relationships. However, current research remains inconclusive regarding:

  • what role the regime type plays in the formation of special relationships,

  • the relationship between material objectives and idealistic convictions,

  • what significance the recognition of a bilateral relationship as a “special relationship” by third countries has and

  • which factors can explain the change (or even the termination) of a special relationship.16

For this reason, even relevant specialist publications have come to the conclusion that the concept of “special relations” in international relations has so far not only remained very vague in terms of definition but also that its analytical usefulness is questionable. If and when the term is used as an analytical category, its interpretation and definition are usually taken directly from the accounts of political actors.17 More­over, the term special relationship is used to describe a variety of very different bilateral relationships – from the British-American18 to the German-Chinese19 to the Chinese-Ethiopian.20

“Value-based partnerships” are primarily a category of political practice rather than an analytical category.

In addition, terms such as “strategic partnership”21 and “value-based partnership” are subsumed under the umbrella term “special relations” and can there­fore be understood as part of a (growing) family of special relations in international politics. “Strategic partnerships” and “value-based partnerships” are given very similar attributes in political practice and the two terms are sometimes even used interchangeably. In contrast to this conceptual vagueness, in foreign policy practice “special relations”, “strategic partnerships” and “value partnerships” are often referred to with certainty, in turn suggesting that they are fixed, clearly understood terms.

However, if any bilateral relationship is to be con­sidered “special” analytically simply because they are officially labelled as special relationships, this then calls into question the usefulness of such a broad and open category: “If special relationships are every­where, then they are nowhere.”22 Some observers there­fore generally describe the term “special rela­tionships” as a “myth”.23

All of this makes a deductive approach to the topic of value-based partnerships difficult. Nevertheless, the term is currently an integral part of Germany’s political practice. Not engaging with it solely due to conceptual ambiguity is not an option. Thus, the basic assumption of this study is that “special rela­tion­ships”, including “value-based partnerships”, are primarily a category of political practice rather than an analytical category, and they will be treated accordingly throughout this study.

Values and value-based partners in the Indo-Pacific

Value-based partners

In Germany’s Indo-Pacific guidelines, published in 2020, Singapore, Australia, Japan and South Korea are explicitly listed as value-based partners. In the 2021 coalition agreement, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea are named as value-based partners.24 In recent years, German government representatives have also publicly referred to Mongolia,25 India,26 Taiwan27 and Indonesia28 as value-based partners. The term is used by the Chancellery, various ministries and the Bundestag. This results in a list of nine play­ers in the region that German officials have categorised as value-based partners since the term “Indo-Pacific” made its way into the official discourse: Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. To compile this list cumulatively was necessary, as no exhaustive list of regional value-based partners in official strategy papers such as the Indo-Pacific Guidelines exists.

While the triad of “democracy, the rule of law and human rights”29 is evidently accorded great impor­tance as the normative basis of a “value-based”30 for­eign policy, the Indo-Pacific Guidelines explicitly refer to “democracies and value-based partners”.31 In turn, it can initially be inferred that value-based partners do not necessarily always have to be democracies. How­ever, all nine states classified as value-based part­ners in the Indo-Pacific are also categorised as democ­racies in the standard indices (see p. 18ff). All nine are also considered to be relatively liberal economies. In this context, however, it should be mentioned that the nine states range across an extremely broad spec­trum in terms of the quality of their democratic gov­ernance and the openness of their economies. It also seems apparent that the labelling of a state as a value-based partner is somewhat static. When examining the official discourse, it is an open question whether domestic political changes such as democratic regres­sion or the systematic violation of human or civil rights necessarily entail a change in status as a value-based partner. The diversity, in terms of the quality of democratic governance, of states that officially func­tion as value-based partners supports this assumption.

Nevertheless, it is also apparent that the current selec­tion of value-based partners points to the as­sump­tion that the implied fundamental values and norms are at their core decidedly democratic and liberal. Statements by members of the German gov­ern­ment reinforce this conclusion: for example, India, as Germany’s value-based partner, is described as an “emerging economic power and established democ­racy”.32 And the partnership with Japan “is particularly important in difficult times because it is based on shared values”. The latter include, above all, Germany and Japan’s joint commitment “to freedom, openness, the rule of law and democracy”. In this context, “openness” is predominantly understood as “open economies”.33

Underlying values

However, systematic analysis of the content of official documents with regard to the central attributes used to describe value-based partnerships only partially sup­ports the anecdotal observations outlined above. It is striking that the most common attribution of a common or shared value in connection with a value-based partnership is striving for the preservation or defence of the rules-based international order. In almost 80 per cent of the 38 documents analysed, the attribute “preservation” or “defence of the rules-based international order” is used in connection with value-based partnerships in the Indo-Pacific (see Table 1). For example, Federal Chancellor Scholz said as much at a press conference in Tokyo: “Germany and Japan stand side by side in the defence of the rules-based international order, in upholding the fundamental principles of the UN Charter and in our commitment to universal human rights.”34

In some cases, this attribution is also accompanied by the adjective “liberal”, i.e. reference is made to the “liberal rules-based international order” – but not always. It therefore remains unclear what exactly is regarded as the normative foundation of the rules-based international order: international law, based on the sovereign equality of all member states of the United Nations (UN), or more liberal interpretations of a rules-based order that emphasise the protection of individual freedoms and human rights more strongly. Official strategy papers such as the National Security Strategy offer no clarification, since the inter­national order is presented as being based on two different foundations: on the one hand on “inter­national law and the Charter of the United Nations”,35 and on the other hand on “promotion of human devel­opment in all parts of the world in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals”.36 In any case, the content analysis makes it clear that, at least in terms of salience, attributes such as “democ­racy/form of government”, “rule of law” or “human rights” are used much less frequently than “preservation” or “defence of the rules-based international order”.

Table 1 Attributes (frequency of naming) of value-based partnerships in the Indo-Pacific


Attribute

Mention in
documents*


per cent

Order

30

78.95

Security

20

52.63

Economy

18

47.37

Democracy

17

44.74

Research, education

10

26.32

Technology

9

23.68

Climate, environment

8

21.05

Rule of law

7

18.42

Human rights

7

18.42

* A total of 38 documents were analysed. Source: Author’s own compilation.

“Regional security” and “regional stability in the Indo-Pacific” is the second most frequently used attribute, in over 50 per cent of the documents examined. For example, the Indo-Pacific guidelines mention “cyber security policy cooperation and dia­logue with value partners in the region (including Singapore, Australia, Japan and South Korea)”, which aim to “strengthen the protection of their own infor­mation and communication systems, collective defence capabilities and resilience to growing threats in cyber and information space”.37

The third most common attribute is “open markets” or “free market economy”. For example, former Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer de­scribed the deployment of the frigate “Bayern” to the Indo-Pacific as “a clear sign of free trade routes” – a symbol “that is particularly well perceived by our partners in the Indo-Pacific, who share the same values as we do”.38 This attribute is often linked to Germany’s self-image as a “trading nation”. The Indo-Pacific Guidelines state: “As a globally active trading nation and advocate of a rules-based international order, Germany – embedded in the European Union – has a strong interest in participating in Asia’s growth dynamics and in helping to shape the Indo-Pacific and implement global norms in regional struc­tures.”39

Only in fourth place does the attribute “democracy” come into play. “Human rights” and “rule of law” are mentioned even less frequently: they are cited in less than 20 per cent of the documents examined.

Table 2 Attributes (common references to) value-based partnerships in the Indo-Pacific*

Attribute

Order

Security

Economy

Democ-racy

Research, education

Tech­nology

Climate,
environ­ment

Rule
of law

Human rights

Order

0

18

14

14

7

8

7

7

5

Security

18

0

6

8

2

3

3

3

2

Economy

14

6

0

10

8

9

8

3

6

Democracy

14

8

10

0

5

4

4

5

5

Research, education

7

2

8

5

0

4

1

0

4

Technology

8

3

9

4

4

0

6

2

2

Climate,
environment

7

3

8

4

1

6

0

2

2

Rule of law

7

3

3

5

0

2

2

0

0

Human rights

5

2

6

5

4

2

2

0

0

* A total of 38 documents were analysed. Source: Author’s own compilation.

If we look at the combination of attributes used to describe value-based partners or value-based part­ner­ships in the Indo-Pacific, we can see that “internation­al order” and “security” are most frequently used in tandem. The second most common combination is “inter­national order” and “economy”, followed by “international order” and “democracy” (see Table 2). The most salient attributes, alone or in combination, that are used as part of the German discourse on the Indo-Pacific to describe the value-based partners and cooperation with them are thus only partially con­gruent with the expected triad of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. They are often attributes that refer to the expected international behaviour of these partners – for example with regard to the preservation of the rules-based international order -instead of referring to more normative aspects.

Furthermore, it is apparent that the majority of the German foreign policy actors that were analysed un­der­stand these motives and objectives to be primarily of a defensive nature. A defence against threats and challenges is to be constructed in cooperation with value-based partners. The threats and challenges include the threat to peace and international stability, the threat of fragmentation of the rules-based inter­national order, but also insecurity in cyberspace (espe­cially disinformation campaigns on the internet), the growing influence of authoritarian states, and cli­mate change, amongst others. The inherent assump­tion is that Germany will be better able to strategically counter all of this through value-based partnerships.

International cooperation and value-based partners in the Indo-Pacific

The use of the term “value-based partnership” repre­sents a special relationship, a special bond with one or more value-based partners, founded on shared norms and principles. The term there has an exclu­sively positive connotation. This in turn makes the distinction between value-based partners and non-value-based partners (the others) particularly relevant: the others are either the cause of the challenges that are to be addressed by forming value-based partnerships (e.g. they challenge the rules-based international order), or they are at least not suitable for cooperation to the same extent as value-based partners due to norm divergence.

The attributes used are also more than a mere description of a special relationship based on declared shared values. In almost all of the sources analysed, they also refer to foreign policy motives and shared strategic goals. It can therefore be assumed, at least implicitly, that policy makers at least assume that certain foreign policy motives or goals can be better pursued by entering a value-based partnership based on a perceived congruence of values. This seems to include the assumption that the specific values that (should) form the basis of the value-based partnership are linked to the strategic objectives of German for­eign policy. Therefore, the aim and purpose of value-based partnerships is at the very least to preserve or even strengthen those declared common values inter­nationally through close cooperation with value-based partners.

If one considers the degree of institutionalisation of bilateral relations as an indicator for close coopera­tion with some (although not all) of Germany’s so-called value-based partners, this assumption initially makes sense. For example, Berlin maintains intergovern­mental consultations with the USA, France, the Netherlands and India. However, it also holds such consultations with non-value-based partners such as China, thereby weakening the presumed link between degree of institutionalisation and norms convergence.

In the following, the extent to which the above-mentioned assumptions are justified is examined on the basis of the five fields of interest of protection: the rules-based international order, free trade/open markets, democratic governance, the rule of law and international human rights norms. This is facilitated by the comparison of an experimental group of eight countries from the identified value-based partners in the Indo-Pacific and an equally large control group of regional non-value-based partners.

Rules-based international order

In connection with the importance of value-based partnerships in the Indo-Pacific, German officials repeatedly express the goal of preserving the rules-based international order and strengthening multi­lateral cooperation. With regard to the importance of these goals, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, which violated international law, was certainly a key event. In response to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, Germany supported five different resolutions in 2022, which were voted on at the UN General Assembly in New York, designed to uphold the rules-based international order. Germany voted in favour of all resolutions. Although none of the eight countries labelled as value-based partners voted against any of the resolutions supported by Germany, the voting behaviour of the eight Indo-Pacific value-based partners on the five resolutions is certainly more heterogeneous than the label “value-based part­ner” would suggest (see Table 3, p. 16).

Firstly, it is noticeable that India and Mongolia abstained from voting in favour of all five resolutions. In particular, India’s refusal to vote in favour drew surprise and criticism both in German diplomatic circles and in the German press, especially because they were openly supported by almost all other democracies in the world. The dominant view in Ger­many was that India, as the world’s largest democracy, should have been “naturally” supportive. At the same time, India’s stance at the UN was explained primarily by India’s particular material interests, spe­cifically its arms and energy supplies from Russia.40

Table 3 Voting behaviour in the UN General Assembly on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 2022

Country

Resolution
A/RES/ES-11/1,
Draft Resolution
A/ES-11/L.1
A/ES-11/L.1/Add.1,
2 March 2022

Resolution
A/RES/ES-11/2,
Draft Resolution
A/ES-11/L.2
A/ES-11/L.2/Add.1,
24 March 2022

Resolution
A/RES/ES-11/3,
Draft Resolution
A/ES-11/L.4
A/ES-11/L.4/Add.1,
7 April 2022

Resolution
A/RES/ES-11/4,
Draft Resolution
A/ES-11/L.5,
12 October 2022

Resolution
A/RES/ES-11/5,
Draft Resolution
A/ES-11/L.6,
14 November 2022

Value-based partner

Australia

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

India

Abstention

Abstention

Abstention

Abstention

Abstention

Indonesia

Yes

Yes

Abstention

Yes

Yes

Japan

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Mongolia

Abstention

Abstention

Abstention

Abstention

Abstention

New Zealand

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Singapore

Yes

Yes

Abstention

Yes

Yes

South Korea

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Germany
(for comparison)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Non-value-based partners (control group)

Bangladesh

Abstention

Yes

Abstention

Yes

Abstention

China

Abstention

Abstention

No

Abstention

No

Fiji

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Cambodia

Yes

Yes

Abstention

Yes

Abstention

Malaysia

Yes

Yes

Abstention

Yes

Abstention

Sri Lanka

Abstention

Abstention

Abstention

Abstention

Abstention

Thailand

Yes

Yes

Abstention

Abstention

Abstention

Vietnam

Abstention

Abstention

No

Abstention

Abstention

United Nations (UN) Digital Library, “Voting Data”, https://digitallibrary.un.org/search?cc=Voting+Data&ln=en&c=Voting+Data.

The voting behaviour of the control group, the non-value-based partners, is also heterogeneous. Although Fiji, Cambodia and Malaysia are not clas­sified as value-based partners, their voting behaviour does not differ fundamentally from that of the value-based partners Indonesia and Singapore. They are even closer to the German position than the value-based partners India and Mongolia. Cambodia, along­side Germany and others, was even one of the ini­tiators of UN Resolution A/RES/ES-11/4. Yet other coun­tries in the control group such as China or Viet­nam are, as expected, far removed from Germany’s position in their voting behaviour.

Free trade, open economies

In order to reduce German (and European) economic dependence on China, a “free trade initiative” is regu­larly called for, which “only makes sense transatlan­tically and in combination with our value-based part­ners in the [Indo]Pacific”, and which should lead to the expansion of trade and investment volumes with “market-economy democracies”.41 A key instrument for this is the conclusion of free trade agreements between the EU and value-based partners in the Indo-Pacific.42

Table 4 EU free trade agreements with value-based partners and non-value-based partners

Country

Agreement

Status

date

Value-based partner

Australia

EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement

Negotiations suspended in 2023

Since 2018

India

EU-India Free Trade Agreement

In negotiation

Since 2022 (resumption)

Indonesia

EU-Indonesia Free Trade Agreement

In negotiation

Since 2016

Japan

EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

Ratified

2019

Mongolia

New Zealand

EU-New Zealand Trade Agreement

Signed

2022

Singapore

EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement

Ratified

2019

South Korea

EU-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement

Ratified

2015

Non-value-based partners (control group)

Bangladesh

China

Comprehensive Agreement on Investment

Negotiated but not signed and ratified

2020

Fiji

Cambodia

Malaysia

EU-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement

Negotiations suspended in 2012

Since 2010

Sri Lanka

Thailand

EU-Thailand Free Trade Agreement

In negotiation

Since 2013

Vietnam

EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement

Ratified

2020

Source: European Commission, “Negotiations and Agreements”, https://policy.trade.ec.europa.eu/eu-trade-relationships-country-and-region/negotiations-and-agreements_en; idem., “EU Trade by Country/Region”, https://policy.trade.ec.europa.eu/eu-trade-relationships-country-and-region/countries-and-regions_en; idem., “Free Trade Agreements”, https://trade.ec.europa.eu/access-to-markets/en/content/free-trade-agreements.

A relatively homogeneous picture emerges from this group. The list of concluded and planned EU free trade agreements with value-based partners in the Indo-Pacific shows that only Mongolia has not yet been targeted for one of these (see Table 4, p. 17). Four value-based partners have already signed or rati­fied free trade agreements with the EU (Japan, New Zealand,43 Singapore and South Korea), while others are in negotiations (India, Indonesia). However, nego­tiations with Australia were broken off unsuccessfully in autumn 2023 and have been on hold ever since.

In the control group, only Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China have successfully negotiated free trade agreements with the EU – in the case of China, however, ratification has not yet taken place on the European side. Negotiations with Thailand are still ongoing.

Democratic Governance

In the domain of democratic governance, the differ­ence between value-based partners and non-value-based partners is quite clearly recognisable. The over­view in Table 5 (p. 19) shows how the value-based partners are categorised in the commonly used democracy indices. Admittedly, these are abstract assessments that appear to provide little concrete information on the actual quality of governance from a democratic perspective. However, these assessments largely coincide with the reports of governmental and non-governmental organisations on the quality of democratic governance in the individual countries. In the Democracy Index, all German value-based part­ners in the Indo-Pacific are listed as democracies; none of them are categorised as hybrid regimes be­tween democracy and autocracy, or even as authoritarian regimes.

Nevertheless, four value-based partners are classified as “flawed democracies”: India, Indonesia, Mon­golia and Singapore. This means that although free and fair elections are held in these countries, there are restrictions on democratic participation with regard to the rights of political opponents or media freedom, for example. This assessment is underpinned by the evaluation of these four countries in the listed freedom indices (Global Freedom Index, Human Freedom Index, press freedom ranking), which hardly differ from the evaluation of non-value-based partners such as Bangladesh or Malaysia.

A look at the control group in turn shows that there is no significant difference in the five selected rankings for Malaysia, Thailand and Sri Lanka when compared to value-based partners such as India or Indonesia. The former, for example, are categorised as “flawed democracies” in the same way as the latter.

There is also a correlation between the categorisation of value-based partners such as India as a “flawed democracy” and the international cooperation of these countries in international democracy promotion. For years, India has been a rather reluctant part­ner when it comes to regional and global democracy promotion. One of the reasons for this is that under the Modi government, New Delhi has an increasingly ethnically defined understanding of democracy inter­nally,44 and externally places a much higher value on other standards such as “state sovereignty” and “non-interference in the internal affairs of other states”.45 Accordingly, the issue has so far played a subordinate role in India’s bilateral cooperation with Germany.

Rule of law and promotion of the rule of law

The following picture emerges with regard to the positioning of the value-based partners in the indices for the rule of law: Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea are clearly in the top quarter of the rank­ings (see Table 6, p. 20). This corresponds to the clas­sification of these four value-based partners in the aforementioned democracy indices. This in turn is in line with Berlin’s view that the rule of law, especially the protection of a country’s citizens from arbitrary coercion is the “foundation” of a functioning democ­racy.46 However, Singapore, classified as a “flawed democracy”, ranks highest in the World Bank’s Rule of Law Index.

Table 5 Ranking of value-based partners and non-value-based partners in democracy and freedom indices, 2021–2022

Country

Democracy Index 2021
(Economist Intelligence Unit)

Democracy Index 2022
(Economist Intelligence Unit)

Global Freedom Index
2022 (Freedom House)

Human Freedom Index
2022 (Fraser Institute)

Press Freedom Index 2022 (Reporters without borders)

Value-based partners

Australia

8.90, full democracy

8.71, full democracy

95, free

8.51, rank 11

39, satisfactory

India

6.91, flawed democracy

7.04, flawed democracy

66, partly free

6.30, rank 112

150, difficult

Indonesia

6.71, flawed democracy

6.71, flawed democracy

59, partly free

6.74, rank 85

117, difficult

Japan

8.15, full democracy

8.33, full democracy

96, free

8.39, rank 16

71, problematic

Mongolei

6.42, flawed democracy

6.35, flawed democracy

84, free

7.62, rank 51

90, problematic

New Zealand

9.37, full democracy

9.61, full democracy

99, free

8.75, rank 2

11, satisfactory

Singapore

6.23, flawed democracy

6.22, flawed democracy

47, partly free

7.70, rank 44

139, difficult

South Korea

8.16, full democracy

8.03, full democracy

83, free

8.11, rank 30

43, satisfactory

Germany
(for comparison)

8.67, full democracy

8.97, full democracy

94, free

8.33, rank 18

16, satisfactory

Non-value-based partners (control group)

Bangladesh

5.99, hybrid regime

5.99, hybrid regime

39, partly free

5.51, rank 139

162, very serious

China

2.21, authoritarian regime

1.94, authoritarian regime

9, not free

5.22, rank 152

175, very serious

Fiji

5.61, hybrid regime

5.55, hybrid regime

58, partly free

7.28, rank 64

102, problematic

Cambodia

2.90, authoritarian regime

3.18, authoritarian regime

24, not free

6.24, rank 116

142, difficult

Malaysia

7.24, flawed democracy

7.30, flawed democracy

50, partly free

6.78, rank 82

113, difficult