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Scholz's visit to focus on Sino-German ties

By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-13 07:00


President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang will meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz respectively to discuss China-Germany ties and issues of common concern during Scholz's three-day official visit to China starting from Sunday.

China has always deemed Germany as an important partner for win-win cooperation, and supports Germany in playing a more important role in Europe and the world, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a regular news conference on Friday.

Both countries benefit from each other's development, and have promoted the steady and sustained development of China-Europe ties, Mao said.

Scholz's upcoming visit to China indicates the importance of bilateral relations between China and Germany and between China and the European Union, observers said.

German federal government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said at a news conference on Monday that Scholz will travel to China over the weekend, accompanied by a business delegation. He will first visit Chongqing on Sunday before heading to Shanghai on Monday.

Jochum Haakma, chairman of the EU-China Business Association, said Scholz's visit with three federal ministers and a very high-profile corporate delegation is not only of great importance for Germany, but also for China's relationship with the EU.

He said that China is the biggest trading partner of Germany and Germany is by far the biggest European investor in China, adding that the German and EU economies are more intertwined and integrated with the Chinese economy than many people imagine.

"This visit shows that China is of great importance to Germany, and it is very good that the leaders of both countries will talk and look each other in the eye. This is the only way to build trust on both sides and keep the doors open for discussions," he said.

Haakma said he believes that Scholz will display a pragmatic approach to enhancing cooperation with China, including a willingness to maintain dialogue and rejecting any decoupling rhetoric and bloc confrontation.

Michael Borchmann, former director-general for international affairs of the German state of Hessen, said he still remembers Scholz's crucial visit to China in November 2022 amid the COVID-19 pandemic less than a year after he took office.

He was also impressed by Scholz's high-profile delegation of three government ministers and top business leaders and the fact that there were many wanting to join the delegation.

According to German media, Roland Busch, chief executive officer of Siemens and also chair and president of the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business, BMW Chairman of the Board of Management Oliver Zipse, Bayer CEO Bill Anderson and ThyssenKrupp CEO Miguel Lopez are part of the business delegation.

"This shows the great interest our country has for close cooperation with China. They think pragmatically and not in the interest of political China bashers. So I have sound expectations for a good result from his visit."

He said that Scholz, a former mayor of Hamburg, understands the "vital importance" of China, and it might explain his engagement in the COSCO deal.

In October 2022, Scholz pushed through a deal to allow COSCO to acquire 24.99 percent of shares in the Hamburg Tollerort terminal despite the concerns of several Cabinet members.

"He looks at China rationally, having Germany's best interest in mind and not ideologically, just to support a foreign country in the West," he said, clearly referring to the US, which exerts a lot of influence in Europe.

Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies at Fudan University, said Scholz's visit reflects the importance of China as an economic and trade partner for Germany, especially at a time when the German economy is facing multiple challenges.

"Despite some differences in his three-party coalition government on its China policy, the consensus has been that the Chinese market is indispensable, and there should be no decoupling," said Ding, who hosted a speech made by then Hamburg mayor Scholz at Fudan in 2015.

He said he believes that Scholz wants to increase communication and coordination with China on issues such as a multilateral system and free trade, which are vital for Germany at a time when Europe is haunted by the Ukraine conflict, an economic slowdown and growing hardships in people's lives.

"Whether it's global geopolitics, the conflicts between Russia and Ukraine and between Israel and Palestine, climate change or food security, these cannot be solved without China's participation. And as a key player in Europe, Germany believes it's vital to communicate with China on hot spot issues," Ding said.

Lai Suetyi, an associate professor at the Center for European Studies at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, said that when Scholz meets with Chinese leaders, bilateral economic cooperation, the EU's anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese electric vehicles, and conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza will be among a long list of topics.

"How fruitful this trip will be is still unknown," she said, adding that Scholz's three-party coalition government means that he is somehow constrained and he also has to keep the US in mind, given Germany's heavy reliance on the US for security.

Wang Qingyun in Beijing contributed to this story.

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