China turns on Germany ahead of Olaf Scholz visit

China: President Xi Jinping 'sees himself as emperor' says Baucus

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China has issued a veiled warning to high-ranking German politicians ahead of a visit by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Beijing this week. His coalition foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, had said earlier this week that China was “increasingly a systemic rival” as she vowed to write a new policy towards the east Asian nation.

Quoting a Chinese academic following her remarks, the Global Times – widely regarded as an English-language CCP mouthpiece – accused the Green leader of “hyping rifts with China especially on values to win more supporters domestically”.

Mr Scholz’s first visit to Beijing comes at a time of increased wariness towards the largest communist state.

President Xi Jinping – who has just secured a third consecutive term as premier – has straddled a position of strategic ambivalence towards Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine, in order to continue to trade with both Vladimir Putin and Western nations.

Despite making several remarks sympathetic to Ukraine’s plight, there are fears that a Russian victory may embolden Mr Xi to mount his own incursion on Taiwan – a breakaway state that China has treated as part of its territory since its formation as a communist country.

During a visit to Uzbekistan on Tuesday, Ms Baerbock said that Mr Scholz – the SDP leader – had chosen the timing of the trip.

She reminded the coalition partner: “Now it is crucial to make clear in China the messages that we have laid down together in the coalition agreement.”

Ms Baerbock added that the German Chancellor would need to communicate his nation’s position on “the question of fair competition, the question of human rights and the question of the recognition of international law” while in Beijing, something his spokesperson has said will be addressed in official meetings.

The German foreign minister explained: “We clearly stated in the coalition agreement that China is our partner on global issues, that we cannot decouple in a globalised world, but that China is also a competitor and increasingly a systemic rival.

“The Chinese political system has changed massively in recent years and thus our China policy must also change.”

At the weekend, Ms Baerbock said Germany needed to learn its lesson from its dependence on Russia – which has threatened its energy supply and hammered its economy – and never again become reliant on a state that did not share Berlin’s values.

In an article published on Wednesday, the Global Times mentioned Ms Baerbock directly, it quoted Jiang Feng, a research fellow at the Shanghai International Studies University, as saying the trip “will send a signal of stability not only to the regions but also the international community”.

The Global Times argued Ms Baerbock in particular had faced “several rounds of criticism” for her “value-guided” policies, which it said “differs from Germany’s pragmatic way and may affect the country’s own interests”.

Citing unnamed “Chinese analysts”, it claimed that “some ‘noise’ that hypes so-called worries about Germany’s dependency on China would have a limited influence as long as Germany’s coalition Government sticks to a pragmatic stance for its own interests”. 

Mr Jiang added: “Some young politicians who have never been to China and bear a bias against China are hyping rifts with China especially on values to win more supporters domestically.”

Concerns in Germany about China came to a head last month after Mr Scholz defied calls from six of his ministries to allow Chinese shipping behemoth Cosco to purchase a stake in the Hamburg shipping terminal.

Instead of vetoing the sale altogether, the Chancellor allowed Cosco a reduced stake.

Ahead of the trip to Beijing, Steffen Hebestreit, a Chancellor spokesperson, said Mr Scholz wanted to “diversify and minimise risks”, but that he was not in favour of cutting ties with China.

China represents a massive market for German companies, including its major car brands.

German firms with investments in China have expressed concern about worsening relations.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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