Scholz the Chinese leader recently cemented power?

During talks with President Xi Jinping, Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, urged China to use Russia’s influence to end the war in Ukraine.

Scholz stated that both Russia and the United States had reached an agreement on Russia’s nuclear threats.

The Chinese president refused to condemn Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

He said that the international community should support peaceful resolutions of the crisis and reject the use or threatened use nuclear weapons, according to Chinese reports.

After the Chinese leader recently cemented power, concern has been expressed about the trip in Germany and other parts of Europe.

The visit of Mr Scholz to China, which lasted just 11 hours, is short and highly controversial.

He is the first Western leader to visit Beijing since the global pandemic, and the first to meet President Xi in Beijing since he tightened control at the Communist Party National Congress last week.

Many in Europe are highly suspicious of the timing of his arrival, including members of Mr Scholz’s government who fear that his presence could serve to strengthen the domestic reputation for an increasingly authoritarian Mr Xi.

Like Angela Merkel before him, the German chancellor believes that cooperation with China is the only way to solve global problems. He said that meeting face-to-face allowed for discussion, even on issues which both countries are strongly divided.

It was mutually acknowledged that times were difficult; President Xi expressed the desire to work together during “times of turmoil and change”.

It was agreed to continue talking about the war in Ukraine and global food and energy security.

Germany’s position on Taiwan was reiterated by Scholz – any changes must be peaceful and mutually agreed upon – and on human right – they must not be compromised, particularly with respect to minorities in Xinjiang.

The visit will be closely monitored in Europe’s capitals.

Mr Scholz was elected to power promising a values-driven foreign policy and a shift in Germany’s approach towards China. This pledge he repeated before his visit. He stated that China’s approach to China needs to change if it is going to change.

Many in Germany and Europe don’t trust him. This is partly due to his recent controversial proposal to sell a share in Hamburg port to a Chinese company.

Six of his ministers opposed it and the security services warned against caution. However, Mr Scholz reportedly negotiated an agreement that reduced the influence and size of the stake. Berlin suspected that Scholz wanted to send China a “gift”.

And Mr Scholz decided to travel with a delegation from German companies such as Bayer, Volkswagen, and BASF.

One Green politician said, “The signal that’s been sent is that we want the extension and intensification of our economic cooperation.” His party has long sought to take a stronger stance against China.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption: Daimler, a German company, is expanding its China resources

Angela Merkel, the predecessor to Mr Scholz, was a firm believer in “Change through Trade” and that executive travel could be a good way to influence relations between countries like Russia and China.

However, Germany’s dependence on cheap Russian energy exposed the flaws in that strategy. China, once considered a partner in Germany, is now seen as a threat to Berlin.

Those who are concerned about China’s close ties to Germany will feel a shudder when President Xi called for “deeper cooperation” with Berlin. They wonder what would happen if China invades Taiwan.

The relationship is responsible for more than one million jobs in Germany.

Daimler, a car manufacturer, sells over a third of its cars in China. German companies invested more in China in the first half this year than ever before. BASF, a chemical company, has just opened a new south China plant and plans to invest EUR10bn (PS8.75bn).

Few Berliners would encourage Germany to “decouple” from China. One business leader stated it in Berlin on the eve Mr Scholz’s visit: “The advice cannot be given now but not to destroy any Chinese porcelain.” There is a lot of interest in insuring Germany that it doesn’t become too dependent.

Mr. Scholz must balance his responsibilities. Protecting the German economy without exposing his business interests (there have been quite a few lately)

The defining test for his chancellorship may be Mr Scholz’s reaction to China’s shifting economy.

Germany is the EU’s largest economy and most influential member. Therefore, what it does and says matters.

One time, I suggested that former Angela Merkel might be seen as a European Donald Trump because of the way she tends to place Germany first.

EU concerns were overlooked in favor of lucrative German trade and energy contracts with Russia, China and China. To protect German taxpayers, she demanded austerity measures by the EU for Mediterranean member countries during the eurozone crisis.

Olaf Scholz, Mrs Merkel’s successor by far more than her name, is a thought leader for many EU leaders.

His huge aid package for German companies with high energy costs is seen as giving them an unfair competitive advantage in the European single market.

His trip to China, which he announced, but did not coordinate with other EU members, caused a stir Europe-wide. France’s Emmanuel Macron warned Mr Scholz recently that he could become isolated.

As Europe and Germany wean themselves off their dependence on Russian gas, the question becomes: Does Berlin get too close to China because of the possibility of business deals?

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has been pushing for the EU’s detachment from Beijing for many years. Critics accused him in protectionism.

After the Covid-19 pandemic and the “weaponization” of energy imports/exports following Russia’s invasion, it became evident that Europe shouldn’t rely on the US for security.


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