The Citizen (KZN)

Germans seek to bolster ties with China


Beijing – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in China yesterday on a trip in which he faces a tough balancing act as he aims to shore up economic ties with Berlin’s biggest trading partner.

Chinese state broadcaste­r CCTV said Scholtz was accompanie­d by a large delegation of ministers and business executives.

As Western allies are cranking up pressure on Beijing, Scholz is expected to underline that Germany remains committed to doing business with the world’s second-largest economy and rejects US-led calls for “decoupling”.

His overtures towards China risk sparking ire among Washington and European Union partners, which have been pushing back against Beijing’s heavy subsidies for industries.

“China remains a really important economic partner,” Scholz told journalist­s on Friday, adding he would try to level the playing field for German companies in China.

On the geopolitic­al front, Scholz will also use his visit to persuade Chinese President Xi Jinping to exert his influence to rein in his Russian counterpar­t Vladimir Putin and help bring an end to the war in Ukraine.

“Given the close relations between China and Russia, Beijing has the possibilit­y to exert its influence on Russia,” said a German government source in Berlin.

The three-day tour through Chongqing, Shanghai and Beijing is Scholz’s second trip to China since he took office.

His first, in November 2022, took place under intense scrutiny, as it came swiftly after Xi strengthen­ed his grip on power, and marked the first post-pandemic visit by a G7 leader to China.

Stung then by painful supply chain disruption­s during the health crisis as well as by China’s refusal to distance itself from Russia despite Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Western allies had been scrambling to reduce their reliance on Beijing.

Scholz’s visit comes as many of Germany’s Western allies confront China on a range of trade issues. A slew of probes into state aid for Chinese solar panels, electric cars and wind turbines are ongoing in Brussels.

The US is meanwhile investigat­ing national security risks posed by Chinese technology in cars.

With tensions rumbling over Taiwan, US President Joe Biden has made defence pledges to Japan and the Philippine­s, while describing behaviour by Beijing in the South China Sea as “dangerous and aggressive”.

Before the visit, Scholz held talks with France’s President Emmanuel Macron, whose office said the leaders “coordinate­d to defend a rebalancin­g of European-Chinese trade relations”.

China is a vital market for Germany, where many jobs depend directly on demand from the Asian giant.

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