China’s Xi calls on Germany’s Scholz for cooperation during ‘times of turmoil’

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Chinese President Xi Jinping touted the need for greater cooperation between China and Germany amid “times of change and turmoil” in his first meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, with talks expected to touch on Russia’s war on Ukraine, climate change and developing economic ties.

Scholtz’s visit on Friday is the first by a leader of a G7 nation to China in three years, and will test the waters of relations between Beijing and the West after years of mounting tensions, analysts say.

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During their first face-to-face meeting since Scholz took office, held in the Great Hall of the People, Xi said that as large nations with influence, China and Germany should work together all the more during “times of change and turmoil” for the sake of world peace, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Scholz told Xi that it was good both leaders were meeting in person during tense times, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine creating problems for the rules-based global order, according to a Reuters reporter accompanying Scholz’s delegation.

Scholz also said that the two will discuss issues related to Europe-China relations, the fight against climate change and global hunger, and how to develop China-Germany economic ties, as well as topics where both countries’ perspective is different.

COVID-19 measures

Scholz and a delegation of German business leaders flying with him were administered COVID-19 tests upon landing in Beijing on Friday morning, with Chinese medical staff donning hazmat suits going into the plane to conduct the tests, according to the Reuters reporter accompanying the delegation.

Following a red carpet and honor guard reception, the delegation was moved from the airport to the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse to await the results of their COVID-19 tests, which quickly came out as negative for Scholz, according to his press team. Diaoyutai is a diplomatic complex used to offer receptions to foreign dignitaries visiting Beijing.

China’s strict zero-COVID policy and growing tensions with the West have made it unfeasible for leaders of major western powers to visit China, while Xi has only just resumed foreign trips.

Scholz’s visit is likely a welcome development for the Chinese leadership, who will be looking to shore up relations with the outside world after the conclusion of the 20th Party congress, where Xi consolidated his status as the core of the ruling Communist Party.

“China, in the present domestic and international environments, requires his visit and whatever both sides would jointly declare in Beijing, especially shortly after the (Party) Congress,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing.

Testing the waters

Amid historic inflation and a looming recession in Germany, Scholz will be looking to emphasize the need for continued cooperation with China.

Scholz was to meet with Xi as well as outgoing Premier Li Keqiang, where he is also expected to raise controversial issues such as human rights, Taiwan and the difficulties German companies face accessing the Chinese market, according to government sources.

In the run-up to the visit, there had been criticism of the visit within the EU and the German government coalition, mainly from the Green Party and the Liberals.

These tensions were brought to the fore by a deal last week whereby Chinese shipping giant Cosco received the green light from Berlin to obtain a stake in a Hamburg port terminal despite opposition from coalition partners.

China’s crucial role in key industries from shipbuilding to electric vehicles, along with the unprecedented economic headwinds facing Germany, meant Scholz needs cooperation with China more than his predecessor Angela Merkel ever did, said Wang Yiwei, Jean Monnet Chair Professor and director of the Centre for European studies at Renmin University.

“Merkel was also quite ideological (toward China) in the beginning but then she changed her tune. Scholz has changed his tune even faster, but he does not have as solid a domestic political standing as Merkel,” said Wang.

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