Feb 8, 2019

Germany presents ambitious alternative to "China 2025"

Chinese President Xi Jinping has "China 2025." Now Peter Altmaier, Germany's economy minister, has introduced "National Industrial Strategy 2030."

The backdrop: European regulators yesterday blocked a mega rail merger between Germany's Siemens and France's Alstom despite strong support for the deal from leaders in Berlin and Paris who said it was necessary to fight off competition from China's state-owned rail giant, CRCC. Regulators said the deal would give the new giant a near-monopoly in European markets, where CRCC isn't even a major player at present.

  • However, critics say European "champions" are needed to compete globally in the coming decades.

As the FT's Ben Hall framed things on the World Weekly podcast: "[Altmaier] warned Germany and Europe risked being mere bystanders in the next industrial revolution unless states were able to protect technologically important companies or subsidize research and innovation. But is this protectionism in a 21st century high-tech disguise?”

  • One of Altmaier's proposals — a state investment fund to block takeovers of critical tech companies — "goes against many of the principals Germany has espoused up until now: a completely open free-market economy," the FT's Guy Chazan in Berlin pointed out on the podcast.
  • German political and business leaders were stunned by the 2016 purchase of German robotics firm Kuka by a Chinese company, Chazan said. They're also "absolutely paranoid about losing their global leadership in cars" as the market shifts toward electric vehicles. Thus, Altmaier is calling for a major battery cell factory in Europe.
  • Altmaier's fear: Europe, the "development laboratory of the world," will become the "workbench of our competitors."

What to watch: Axios Future Editor Steve LeVine points out that just as this debate is taking place, European antitrust regulators are taking aim at American tech giants, most notably Facebook. "Here you have the tension — between the antitrust impulse and the champions impulse," he says.

Go deeper ... Monopolies vs. China: Europe debates which presents a greater threat

Go deeper

What the coronavirus means for Trump's presidency

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

A poor response to the coronavirus could be politically devastating for President Trump, and so far his administration has given the strong impression that it’s still scrambling as the risk of a pandemic mounts.

Why it matters: There’s only so much any president can do to stop a virus from spreading, and for now the coronavirus is still very much under control within the U.S. But if the disease get worse in the months ahead, and if the administration seems to be caught off guard, that spells trouble for public confidence in Trump.

Go deeperArrow55 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus updates: New global case numbers surpass China's

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. As Denmark and Estonia reported their first cases Thursday, Scott Morrison, prime minister of Australia — which has 23 confirmed infections — told a news conference, "The risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health

Mass shooting in Milwaukee: What we know

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012. Photo: John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

Six people died in a shooting at the Molson Coors Brewing Company in Milwaukee Molson Coors on Wednesday, including the 51-year-old gunman, Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters at an evening press conference with local police.

Details: All of the victims worked at the brewery complex, as did the shooter who died of "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police confirmed in a statement late Wednesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy