CHENNAI: On Friday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz went to China, despite domestic and international skepticism about his trip. As the first leader from the G7 group of countries to visit China since the pandemic, Scholz said he had “candid exchanges” with Chinese President Xi Jinping on a wide range of issues, including the Ukraine war, human rights and the use of nuclear weapons. This included the two leaders agreeing that threatening to use nuclear weapons was “ irresponsible and dangerous,” Scholz said at a press conference after his meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The Chinese leadership agreed, but did not mention Russia by name. Russia’s government has alluded to using nuclear weapons in its invasion of Ukraine.
Scholz also said the two leaders had come together “at a time of great tension” which echoed Xi’s call for China and Germany to increase cooperation amid “times of change and turmoil.” Despite the diplomatic words, Scholz’s 11-hour trip to China remains controversial — and not least because Germany’s current coalition government previously promised to change its approach to China, including reducing its dependency on the Asian giant. Experts say Scholz’s trip shows that Germany hasn’t really changed its policies towards China. As he arrived in Beijing with a delegation of top executives from several influential German businesses, Scholz highlighted the need to maintain economic cooperation with China.
Despite warnings about Germany’s over-reliance on China from German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock prior to the trip, Scholz said he wanted “to talk about how we can further develop our economic cooperation on other topics: climate change, food security, indebted countries.” “The trip sends a message that even though Berlin should be seriously rethinking the relationship with China, they are going back to business as usual,” said Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy, an assistant professor at National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan and a former political advisor to the European Parliament.
“While I think Europe needs to find a way to constructively talk to China from a position of strength, what Berlin is doing undermines that position by pursuing its own interests at the expense of the emerging, yet fragile, European unity that we’ve seen since the Ukraine war,” she added.
Reinhard Bütikofer, a German politician and member of the Greens party in the European Parliament, told DW that Scholz’s trip has contradicted the German coalition government’s agreement and will also have a negative impact on the European Union. “He sent a message that continuing trade and investment will be a political priority [for him,]” Bütikofer said.
“Germany’s China policy can’t be developed on the basis of the Chancellor alone, who has ignored competent advice on China at least three times. When we founded the new German government, we agreed Germany’s future China policy should be strongly integrated at the European level, and it should be coordinated in the trans-Atlantic relationship. Both haven’t happened,” Bütikofer added.
Despite Scholz’s efforts to highlight sensitive issues, former European Parliament political advisor Ferenczy thinks Scholz is merely “ticking the boxes” by telling media that he brought up China’s human rights records with the Chinese leadership. “The question of human rights was never really part of the agenda.”
This article was provided by Deutsche Welle