In recent months, the implementation of Germany's Indo-Pacific policy from September 2020 has started to take shape. With maritime security concerns as principal drivers, naval deployments have taken centre stage. Yet, as the voyage of the frigate Bayern exemplifies, the German approach - similar to other European policies - suffers from contradictions which are hidden under the "rules-based order" label. Adopting terminology that originated in Australia and Japan, also the German "Policy Guidelines for the Indo-Pacific" employ a variation of the rules-based order concept for describing what they seek to preserve. Symbolically powerful naval deployments aimed at safeguarding the "freedom of navigation" through Southeast Asian waters have spearheaded the implementation of the Guidelines, while overshadowing their many other dimensions. The conflation of legitimate concerns about Chinese expansion in the South China Sea with questionable projections of China's linear path to hegemonic power and concomitant courting of "like-minded" "value partners" altered the Guidelines' characteristically European emphasis on inclusivity, de-escalation, and the rule of international law. The rules-based order has come to signify the common interest among a diverse group of powerful states in curbing Chinese influence. This complicates the question of which shared "values," "rules," and conceptions of "order" are at stake. The increasingly wider usage of "rules-based order" has also led to policymakers glossing over the fact that they have themselves been part of, and are driving, the scramble for new spheres of influence. German policymakers must admit that talking about the rules-based order raises more questions than answers. This is also a precondition for getting clear about whether they seek to help contain China. To play a stabilising role, they and other European governments must listen to what the many less-powerful actors in the Indo-Pacific have to say, and clearly articulate the specific rules, norms, and institutions they are seeking to promote to the benefit of all.