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Germany's Scholz urges China to use 'influence' on Russia

Published November 4, 2022last updated November 4, 2022

The German chancellor's controversial trip to China had an economic emphasis, but Scholz also vowed not to shy away from difficult issues.

Chinese President Xi Jinping receives German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
Scholz is in China for his first visit as German chancellorImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday received German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Beijing in the first visit by a leader of a G7 nation to China in three years.

The controversial visit comes only days after Xi strengthened his hold on power and as tensions run high between the West and Beijing on issues ranging from Taiwan to alleged human rights abuses.

Scholz and the delegation of business leaders were tested for COVID-19 upon arrival. The German leader also held talks with China's Premier Li Keqiang on the one-day trip. 

What was said about Russia's war in Ukraine?

Scholz had promised a "candid exchange" with Chinese leaders on a number of issues, including Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"We come together at a time of great tension," Scholz said in his opening remarks, according to the German news agency DPA. "In particular, I want to highlight the Russian war against Ukraine, which poses many problems for our rules-based world order."

Scholz told a press conference that he called on Beijing to exert its "influence" on Russia. 

"I told President [Xi] that it is important for China to use its influence on Russia," Scholz said. "We have agreed that threatening nuclear attacks is irresponsible and dangerous."

"We cannot afford further escalation," Li said, adding that he hoped the war would end soon.

Scholz visits China: DW's Richard Walker reports

Xi "pointed out that China supports Germany and the EU in playing an important role in promoting peace talks and promoting the building of a balanced, effective and sustainable European security framework," according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

The international community should "call on all parties concerned to exercise rationality and restraint, conduct direct contacts as soon as possible, and create conditions for the resumption of negotiations [and] jointly oppose the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons," Xi was quoted as saying.

While China has not endorsed Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it has deepened Chinese-Russian relations and blamed NATO and the United States for the invasion.

Scholz's day trip to China: Why now?

More 'difficult issues' to discuss

Scholz had vowed to address "difficult issues" with Chinese leaders. 

Like the US and many Western countries, Scholz asserted that Berlin follows the "One China principle" when it comes to Taiwan, but warned that any change to the status quo must only happen peacefully and with dialogue. 

Last week, China decried a visit by a delegation of German lawmakers to Taiwan amid concerns that Beijing could invade the island. 

Scholz also stressed that human rights are universally recognized and urged the rights of Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in China's Xinjiang be upheld.

"This is not interference in internal affairs," he said. Beijing has long rejected criticism of its treatment of Uyghurs as foreign interference. 

A recent UN report said that China's human rights violations in Xinjiang might amount to crimes against humanity. 

Trade high on the agenda

Scholz also emphasized the need for continued economic cooperation with China.

The German leader said he wanted "to talk about how we can further develop our economic cooperation on other topics: climate change, food security, indebted countries." 

The German and Chinese economies are deeply intertwined. Some even within Scholz's coalition government are worried the relationship is too close. 

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock recently said mistakes made in the past that led to heavy dependence on Russia must not be repeated with China.

Controversial trip

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is good and right that I am here today," Scholz said at the beginning of his remarks to the press, in a clear response to domestic and international criticism over his trip. 

Scholz had insisted that direct talks with Chinese leaders were "all the more important" after a long hiatus, partly owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

DW's chief international editor Richard Walker said Scholz was "sticking his neck out" by going to Beijing. 

"What Olaf Scholz has been saying about this trip is simply that it is important for Germany and China to be talking ... especially in the time of tensions that exist around the world, particularly the geopolitical tensions [and] Russia's war in Ukraine, that it's very important for there to be an exchange of views even if you don't agree about everything," Walker said. 

One thing Germany's three-party coalition agreed to when negotiating their government was to develop a new China strategy.

Controversy surrounds Chancellor Scholz's China trip

The visit comes shortly after Scholz — despite objections from many in his Cabinet and ruling coalition — pushed through a controversial deal to allow Chinese state-owned shipping company Cosco to buy a minority 24.9% stake in one of Hamburg's port terminals.

Baltic nations and some other former Soviet bloc countries have also become increasingly suspicious of China's growing economic influence in Europe, particularly given what Xi recently called Beijing's "no limits" friendship with Moscow.

At an EU summit in Brussels on October 21 focusing on relations with China, the Baltic states said it was important to speak to Beijing with a "single voice."

fb, lo/nm (AFP, Reuters)

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