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Angela Merkel with China's Xi Jinping. Photo: Jason Lee - Pool/Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe needs to strengthen its cooperation on issues like technology and defense, while avoiding involvement in U.S.-China tensions, in an interview with the FT.

What she's saying: “The United States’ focus on Europe is declining — that will be the case under any president. We in Europe, and especially in Germany, need to take on more responsibility.”

  • Merkel cited not just President Trump’s "America first" view, but former President Obama’s pivot to Asia as signs that Washington no longer views Europe as “at the centre of world events."
  • “I see the European Union as our life insurance. Germany is far too small to exert geopolitical influence on its own, and that’s why we need to make use of all the benefits of the single market,” she said.

What she’s calling for:

  • Merkel said European firms need to be able to manufacture critical technologies like microchips and battery cells, rather than rely on outside suppliers.
  • She also said Europe must be willing to “get involved” in conflicts in areas outside of NATO’s borders, including in Africa.

Merkel warned that Europe needs to avoid coming “under pressure between America and China,” and said “complete isolation from China cannot be the answer.”

  • She rejected the idea of “decoupling” economically and diplomatically from China, as many in Washington are now proposing.
  • Merkel defended her government’s close ties with China, and its decision not to exclude Huawei from 5G networks.
  • She said she would “advise against regarding China as a threat simply because it is economically successful.”
“As was the case in Germany, [China’s] rise is largely based on hard work, creativity and technical skills.”
— Angela Merkel

Our thought bubble: Merkel's view stands in sharp contrast to those who argue China's global ambitions, combined with its authoritarian model and human rights abuses, pose an existential threat to the West.

What to watch: After 14 years in power, Merkel says this is her final term. She’s expected to leave office in 2021 unless her rickety coalition collapses before then.

  • “I don’t think about my role in history — I do my job,” she told interviewers. But she showed a “flash of irritation,” they write, when asked about critics who view her tenure as a time of “muddling through.”

Go deeper: China challenge stumps 2020 Democrats

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Rahm Emanuel floated for Transportation secretary

Rahm Emanuel. Photo: Joshua Lott for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President-elect Biden is strongly considering Rahm Emanuel to run the Department of Transportation, weighing the former Chicago mayor’s experience on infrastructure spending against concerns from progressives over his policing record.

Why it matters: The DOT could effectively become the new Commerce Department, as infrastructure spending, smart cities construction and the rollout of drone-delivery programs take on increasing economic weight.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden turns to experienced hands for White House economic team

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Biden plans to announce Cecilia Rouse and Brian Deese as part of his economic team and Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: These are experienced hands. Unveiling a diverse group of advisers also may draw attention away from a selection of Deese to run the National Economic Council. Some progressives have criticized his work at BlackRock, the world's largest asset management firm.

Biden taps former Obama communications director for press secretary

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Jen Psaki, who previously served as Obama's communications director, will serve as President-elect Joe Biden's press secretary, the transition team announced Sunday.

The big picture: All of the top aides in Biden's communication staff will be women, per the Washington Post, which first reported Psaki's appointment.

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