GERMAN CHANCELLOR OLAF SCHOLZ’S meeting with Xi Jinping elicited a statement that the two countries should have ‘economic ties as equals, with reciprocity’.
Beijing will be pleased by that, and it will take some of the sting out of the soon-to-be-published China Strategy paper that is expected to align Germany with the US view of China as the primary geopolitical threat to the West.
It will also give Beijing some hope in its efforts to reverse the gradual convergence of the EU’s view of China with that of the United States and undermine Brussels’ efforts to adopt a more values-based approach to relations with Beijing by promising that German industry’s supply chains and economic interests in China are secure. China is Germany’s largest trading partner.
Scholz has been criticised domestically and internationally for his visit to Beijing, the first by a G7 leader since the coronavirus pandemic.
In an opinion piece published by the US political website Politico, Scholz criticised China’s Marxist-Leninist trajectory and said that German industry needed to reduce dependence on China, especially in cutting-edge technologies.
However, before his visit, Scholz had pushed through approval of Cosco taking an ownership stake in the port of Hamburg, Europe’s third-largest, although, under pressure, he reduced it to a 24.9% stake from the 35% sought.
Scholz also defended his visit to China by suggesting that talks with Xi were necessary to understand better China’s position towards the West and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and what cooperation was possible.
The readouts from the two leaders’ meeting contained an intriguing reference to the situation in Ukraine.
We should jointly oppose the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, refrain from using nuclear weapons or fighting a nuclear war, and prevent a nuclear crisis on the Eurasian continent.
If that was intended as a message for Xi’s friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin, it has, presumably, also been transmitted privately.
Scholz, who was accompanied by a delegation of German industrialists, also secured approval for the Covid-19 vaccine made by Germany’s BioNTech for use by foreigners living in China and said that should be the first step to broader approval, a hint of how zero-Covid might be eased.
The next question in Beijing will be how much, if any, of the cooperative talk with Sholz can be carried forward into whatever meeting takes place between Xi and US President Joe Biden at the forthcoming G7 meeting.