Diplomacy: Scholz set off for China with a business delegation

Diplomacy: Scholz set off for China with a business delegation

Three days, three cities and lots of difficult topics: Chancellor Scholz sets off on his second trip to China with around a dozen top managers, which is likely to be a balancing act for him.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) set off on Saturday for a three-day visit to China, where he will meet, among others, President Xi Jinping. But first he visits Chongqing, a metropolis on the Yangtze River, which is considered the largest city in the world with around 32 million inhabitants. We then move on to the economic and financial center of Shanghai and finally to the political talks in Beijing on Tuesday.

The Chancellor is accompanied by a dozen top managers. These include the CEOs of the car manufacturers Mercedes-Benz and BMW as well as the chemical company BASF. Volkswagen, the largest European car company, is not taking part this time. In Beijing, Scholz also receives support from ministers Cem Özdemir (Agriculture, Greens), Volker Wissing (transport, FDP) and Steffi Lemke (environment, Greens).

Scholz’s second trip to China

It is the Chancellor’s second trip to China since taking office in December 2021. His inaugural visit in November 2022 was only a day trip due to the ongoing corona pandemic. This time he is taking three days – more than ever before for a single country on a trip. The main topics are likely to include economic cooperation, efforts to end Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, tensions between China and Taiwan and climate protection.

Economy: China as Germany’s most important trading partner

Last summer, the traffic light government decided on a China strategy aimed at reducing economic dependence on China in order to avoid a rude awakening like the one that occurred when Russian gas supplies were cut off after the attack on Ukraine. However, this strategy is not really working for the German economy. The approximately 5,000 German companies in China are more concerned about unfair competitive conditions and exporters are concerned about falling sales figures. Conversely, cheap Chinese electric cars are flooding the European market. The EU Commission has therefore initiated an investigation into possible illegal subsidies. If this results in countermeasures, German car manufacturers in particular fear that this could trigger a trade war.

Ukraine War: China as Russia’s Most Important Ally

The greatest success of the Chancellor’s inaugural visit to Beijing a year and a half ago was that Xi subsequently took a stand against Russian threats to use nuclear weapons. This time it will probably be about, among other things, the Ukraine peace conference, which is scheduled to take place in Switzerland in mid-June. Any possible success depends on China’s participation. The giant empire is considered Russia’s most important ally and is trying to initiate a process to end the conflict. But it is also suspected of supplying Russia with military-useful goods. This could also become a topic during the visit. “It’s about China not supporting Russia in waging a brutal war against its neighbor Ukraine,” Scholz told the daily newspaper before his departure.

Taiwan: China’s threatening gestures to the outside world

China is becoming increasingly aggressive toward its neighborhood. This applies to islands and sea areas in the South China Sea, over which the superpower is fighting with countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. And that applies to the democratic island republic of Taiwan, which the communist People’s Republic of China claims as its own territory. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fears have been growing that China could attack Taiwan. Scholz is likely to repeat his warning against the use of force against the island republic in Beijing.

Human Rights: China’s Domestic Repressions

Scholz also wants to address human rights issues on his trip. These include the oppression of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province and freedom of expression. Human rights organizations are demanding a clear address from the Chancellor to the Chinese leadership. Scholz says that for him, speaking openly about such topics is part of a “dialogue at eye level.”

Source: Stern

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