Chancellor Olaf Scholz is traveling to China this week. The inaugural visit is special for several reasons – and is critically monitored in advance.
Olaf Scholz is leading the way, says Olaf Scholz, sometimes taking a different direction than the others. “Because I don’t do what you want, so I lead,” who criticized his reluctance to ship heavy weapons to Ukraine. At that time the chancellor was put through the wringer for his course, .
This time, too, the chancellor is taking a path that at least causes discomfort. Scholz is expected to make a one-day inaugural visit to China this Friday. The Chancellor, who is arriving in the presence of a business delegation, will be the first Western head of government to be received in Beijing since the beginning of the corona pandemic.
“I find the timing of this trip extremely unfortunate”
A meeting between Scholz and President Xi Jinping is on the agenda. Afterwards, Scholz and Prime Minister Li Keqiang should also meet. The talks will cover “the entire spectrum of our relations with China,” but also international issues, including combating climate change and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
However, there is not much time for this. “It’s very complicated due to the Corona regime there, that’s why the trip is very short”, . An overnight stay is not planned, it is “actually a day trip”.
Nevertheless, even the short visit is sure to attract a great deal of attention. Critical words about the trip are voiced in advance – and expectations of the Chancellor are addressed:
- “I find the timing of this trip extremely unfortunate,” said FDP Secretary General Bijan Djir-Sarai to the broadcasters on Monday. In this context, Djir-Sarai referred to the debate about the entry of a Chinese state-owned company in the port of Hamburg. Germany must “never again be economically dependent on an autocratic state,” warned the FDP general secretary. “China is an important trading partner but also a systemic rival – everyone who uses the word turning point should be aware of that.”
- Friedrich März also thinks the timing of the visit was wrong. “The visit of the German Chancellor and still incumbent President of the G7 countries immediately after the 20th Party Congress of the CPC will be very welcome in China,” wrote the Union faction leader in a recent guest article for . He fears a “propaganda success” for the state leadership, especially since Scholz is bringing the approval of Cosco’s entry into Hamburg with him.
How dependent can Germany make itself on other countries? The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has compellingly raised this question. In any case, the mistakes in Russia policy should not be repeated, there is broad agreement on that. However, what this means for cooperation with China, which is also governed by an authoritarian rule, is obviously controversial.
- Against the objections of several ministries, Scholz pushed through an agreement last week that would allow the Chinese state-owned company Cosco to hold a stake in a container terminal operator in the Port of Hamburg. Although the project was approved by the Federal Cabinet, several departments formally reported serious concerns ().
- Now experts are warning again against selling too much industry abroad: With the Dortmund-based semiconductor manufacturer Elmos, a German company is about to be sold, and China is again a potential buyer. And again the .
High expectations of Olaf Scholz before his trip to China
Concern is growing that Germany’s dependency on the People’s Republic could increase further. Under this impression, demands are being made that the Chancellor convey key messages such as the importance of human rights, international law and fair competitive conditions during his visit to China:
- “The Chancellor has decided the time of his trip,” said Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) on Tuesday. “Now it is crucial to make the messages that we jointly defined in the coalition agreement (…) clear in China as well.” It is crucial to make it clear to Beijing “that the question of fair competitive conditions, that the question of human rights and the question of the recognition of international law is our basis for international cooperation”.
- The chancellor must use his visit to Beijing to “confront Xi Jinping with German and European interests,” says Thorsten Benner, director of the Global Public Policy Institute think tank in Berlin. “Scholz should make it clear that Beijing is paying a political price for continuing to stand by Putin, even when he threatens nuclear war,” Benner said in an article for the renowned journal. Scholz should also “clearly signal that Beijing’s increasingly aggressive attitude towards Taiwan is unacceptable”, “clearly oppose the oppression in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong” and “signal the European willingness to work with China on the climate crisis”.
In fact, the chancellor could certainly have room for maneuver during his visit: Germany is one of the few remaining discussion partners in the West for Beijing, and climate protection and an end to the Ukraine war are also in our common interest. This mixed situation could therefore be useful for Scholz.
This is the situation just a few days before the visit to China. The internal political pressure on Scholz is great and has increased again in the course of the controversial port deal. The chancellor will have to do something in Beijing to counter the criticism.
Sources: , , with material from the DPA news agency