Scholz from Germany comes to China to strengthen economic relations

Scholz from Germany comes to China to strengthen economic relations


Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in Beijing on Friday to strengthen a key economic relationship, but has faced criticism over his country’s heavy reliance on a nation becoming increasingly authoritarian under Xi Jinping.

Scholz is the first G7 leader to visit China since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted the world’s second-largest economy to largely close its borders.

Accompanied by top executives, he is to hold talks with President Xi and Premier Li Keqiang on the one-day trip.

But the visit has sparked controversy so soon after Xi strengthened his power and tensions between the West and Beijing are running high over issues ranging from Taiwan to alleged human rights abuses.

German industry’s heavy reliance on China is also coming under renewed scrutiny, as Berlin is reeling from an over-reliance on Russian energy imports, which it left open when Moscow turned off the taps.

Behind Scholz’s approach is still the idea “that we want to continue doing business with China, no matter what that means for the dependence of our economy and our ability to act,” opposition politician Norbert Röttgen told the Rheinische Post.

Concerns about China also come from the governing coalition. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said mistakes made with Russia in the past should not be repeated.

The sensitivity of the issue was highlighted when a row broke out last month over whether Chinese shipping giant Cosco should acquire a stake in a Hamburg port terminal.

Ultimately, Scholz resisted calls from six ministries to oppose the sale over safety concerns, instead allowing the company to acquire a reduced stake.

– ‘walk alone’ –

The German and Chinese economies are closely intertwined. Some in Berlin say the relationship is particularly important as Germany heads into recession with an energy crisis sparked by the Ukraine war.

China is an important market for German goods, from machinery to vehicles from Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

The leader of Europe’s top economy has defended the trip, insisting direct talks with Chinese leaders are “all the more important” after a long hiatus due to the pandemic.

In a newspaper article, he said that “we will not ignore controversy,” and listed sensitive issues that would play a role in talks, from respect for civil liberties to the rights of Xinjiang’s minorities.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China is looking forward to a “successful” visit and that “cooperation far exceeds competition” between the countries.

But he also warned that “the Chinese side is opposed to interference in our internal affairs and slanders us under the guise of discussing human rights issues.”

There are concerns that the trip – which came after Xi secured a historic third term at a Communist Party convention last month – may have unsettled the United States and the European Union.

“The Chancellor is pursuing a foreign policy that will lead to a loss of confidence in Germany among our closest partners,” said Röttgen from the CDU and accused Scholz of “going it alone”.

But Berlin says there have been consultations with key partners, while Scholz insisted he is visiting China both as a “European” and as the leader of Germany.

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