https://www.dw.com-The German chancellor’s trip to China has an economic emphasis but Scholz vowed not to shy away from difficult issues. There are concerns at home in Germany and abroad about the visit.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday received German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Beijing in the first visit by a leader of a G7 nation to China in three years.
Scholz and the delegation of business leaders were tested for COVID-19 upon arrival. The German leader also held talks with China’s Premier Li Keqiang on the one-day trip.
‘A time of great tension’
“We come together at a time of great tension,” Scholz said in his opening remarks, according to German news agency DPA. “In particular, I want to highlight the Russian war against Ukraine, which poses many problems for our rules-based world order.”
The meeting with Xi was largely closed to the press, but reporters accompanying Scholz’s delegation quoted him as saying: “It is good that we are able to have an exchange here about all questions, including those questions where we have different perspectives — that’s what an exchange is for.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese leader agreed that “the international situation is complex and changeable,” but he did not directly refer to the war in Ukraine.
“As influential powers, China and Germany should work together in times of change and chaos to make more contributions to world peace and development,” Xi told Scholz, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
Scholz’s trip will “enhance mutual understanding and mutual trust, deepen practical cooperation in various fields, and create sound plans for the development of China-Germany relations in the next stage,” Xi was quoted as saying.
Trade high on the agenda
Scholz emphasized the need for continued economic cooperation with China.
The German leader said he wanted “to talk about how we can further develop our economic cooperation on other topics: climate change, food security, indebted countries.”
The German and Chinese economies are deeply intertwined. Some even within Scholz’s coalition government are worried the relationship is too close.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock recently said mistakes made in the past with Russia must not be repeated.
Scholz, however, had insisted that direct talks with Chinese leaders were “all the more important” after a long hiatus partly owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
DW’s chief international editor Richard Walker said Scholz was “sticking his neck out” by going to Beijing.
“What Olaf Scholz has been saying about this trip is simply that it is important for Germany and China to be talking… especially in the time of tensions that exist around the world, particularly the geopolitical tensions [and] Russia’s war in Ukraine, that it’s very important for there to be an exchange of views even if you don’t agree about everything,” Walker said.
One thing Germany’s three-party coalition agreed to when negotiating their government was to develop a new China strategy.
The visit comes shortly after Scholz — despite objections from many in his Cabinet and ruling coalition — pushed through a controversial deal to allow Chinese state-owned shipping company Cosco to buy a minority 24.9% stake in one of Hamburg’s port terminals.
Baltic nations and some other former Soviet bloc countries have also become increasingly suspicious of China’s growing economic influence in Europe, particularly given what Xi recently called Beijing’s “no limits” friendship with Moscow.
At an EU summit in Brussels on October 21 focusing on relations with China, the Baltic states said it was important to speak to Beijing with a “single voice.”
fb, lo/nm (AFP, Reuters)