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Merkel urges China to do more for climate

September 7, 2019

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has underlined the importance of international cooperation on both global warming and global trade in a speech to Chinese students. She also criticized China's social credit system.

Merkel in China
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

German Chancellor Angela Merkel took China to task, albeit diplomatically, over its climate record on the second day of her latest visit to the world's second-biggest economy.

Speaking to students at Huazhong University in the city of Wuhan, Merkel said "climate protection is everyone's responsibility" and that given China's size and power, the world needed an important contribution from it.

Merkel also questioned whether China should still be considered a developing country, given the speed at which it has modernized in recent years.

Multilateralism and human rights

The chancellor used her speech to reiterate her commitment to multilateralism, insisting that common rules were essential in a globalized world, while "protectionism hurts us all." She added that China's new economic power was itself an illustration of the success of the world's multilateral trade system.

At the same time, the chancellor said China's rise to become one of the most important players in the world also meant it had greater responsibilities when it came to human rights and safeguarding the rule of law.

That echoed comments Merkel made following her meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, when she called for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong. "I indicated during the talks that the rights and freedoms agreed upon in Hong Kong's Basic Law should be safeguarded," she said Friday. 

The chancellor took up the issue again on Saturday, saying, "I have advocated that conflicts be resolved without violence and that anything else would be a catastrophe from my point of view."

Controversial social credit system

The chancellor's speech in Wuhan also included some criticism of China's social credit system, which allows the state to evaluate economic and social creditworthiness of both individuals and businesses using personal online data.

China's social credit information system authority said that some 20 million of the country's 1.3 billion people had been banned from air and train travel in 2018 because their credit scores were too low.

Merkel told the students that in Europe the system was viewed as a bad idea because data privacy was considered a human right.

The EU Chamber of Commerce in China warned European companies in late August that they would need to ramp up preparations for the social credit system.

But Merkel's trips to China always include a large business contingent, because of the country's huge importance as a market for German businesses.

bk/tj (dpa, Reuters)

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