Frigate Bayern in the Pacific: The Return of German Gunboat Diplomacy?

CIMSEC – The German government recently announced the deployment of the frigate Bayern to the South China Sea. With this deployment, Berlin is aiming to send a strong signal to its European and American allies. However, it is one that comes with an exit strategy of a kind that is unique to the use of naval forces. On one hand, Germany wants to be seen as standing up against unilateral Chinese appropriation of international waters. On the other hand, China’s potential counterreactions need to be closely monitored and dangerous escalation avoided, especially in light of China’s current conventional and nuclear capabilities, and Germany’s economic dependence on the Middle Kingdom.