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Germany calls on China to avoid 'horror' in Taiwan Strait

April 14, 2023

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned China against using force in Taiwan and discussed Ukraine during strategic talks in Beijing. China warned against interference in matters concerning Taiwan.

Annalena Baerbock and Qin Gang shake hands during a meeting in Beijing
Baerbock will also discuss human rights and climate changeImage: Soeren Stache/dpa/picture alliance

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was on day two of three-day trip to China on Friday to hold strategic talks in Beijing.

"Conflicts must be solved peacefully. A unilateral, violent change of the status quo would not be acceptable for us Europeans," she said after meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang. She warned China against the use of force in Taiwan, and said Berlin was monitoring tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

Baerbock also used the opportunity to warn against a "horror scenario" in case of "military escalation" in the Taiwan Strait, days after Beijing completed major military exercises near the self-ruled island.

"A military escalation in the Taiwan Strait... would be a horror scenario for the entire world," she said.

Qin warned against intervention from outside, and told reporters that if other states "truly respect" the One China principle, they should reject separatist activities in Taiwan.

Qin said China was willing to work with Germany on economic and trade issues, and the two are partners, not rivals. Addressing the issue of Ukraine, he said China was willing to continue to work for peace and hoped that all parties could work together. China "will not do anything to add fuel to the fire," Qin said. He also promised Beijing would not supply weapons to Russia to support its invasion of Ukraine.

Responding to China's remarks, Baerbock pushed for Beijing to take a firmer stance.

"It is good that China has signaled its commitment to a solution, but I have to say frankly that I wonder why the Chinese position so far does not include a call on the aggressor Russia to stop the war," Germany's top diplomat said, adding that "no other country has more influence on Russia than China."

What else is on Baerbock's agenda?

Earlier on Friday, Baerbock visited a German electrical mobility company based in the port city of Tianjin.

Qin accompanied her to Vitesco, a Bavarian company that produces fully integrated electrical engines and operates a research and development unit.

The two ministers then took a special train to Beijing, where talks were held in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse as part of the German-Chinese Strategic Dialogue.

During the afternoon, Baerbock held a short meeting with Vice President Han Zheng in Beijing.

Baerbock at Vitesco Automotive
Baerbock also visited two German-owned companies at the start of her visit to ChinaImage: Soeren Stache/dpa/picture alliance

She also expressed concern about human rights issues in China.  "I explained... in our bilateral talks that we are concerned that the scope for civil society engagement in China is continuing to shrink and human rights are being curtailed," she told reporters. 

Qin rejected Baerbock's criticism by saying that every state has its own circumstances and cultural and historical background. He told reporters, "What China needs least is a teacher from the West." 

Europe pushing economic ties despite US ire

Due to China's support for President Vladimir Putin amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine and tensions with the West over Taiwan's status, the political talks on Friday are seen by many as the most challenging part of her visit.

Although Beijing has declared itself a neutral party in the conflict, close ties between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have cast significant doubts on that claim.

Apart from German-Chinese relations, she is expected to raise human rights issues and measures to mitigate climate change.

Before leaving for China, Baerbock had emphasized the goal of exploring opportunities for future economic cooperation with Beijing.

"Partner, competitor, systemic rival: That is the compass of European China policy. In which direction the needle will swing in the future depends in part on which path China chooses," she said.

Baerbock's visit to China is seen as a crucial step in maintaining and strengthening relations between the two countries. As two of the world's largest economies, cooperation between Germany and China is essential to global economic growth and stability.

Her visit comes on the heels of a similar trip made by French President Emmanuel Macron, who irked Washington by saying that Europe needs to chart its own course on China and Taiwan and not blindly follow the US. Baerbock appeared to offer some subtle support of Macron's comments after arriving in China on Thursday.

tg/es  (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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