China criticizes Germany’s call for reducing dependency on Chinese products

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China on Friday criticized a German government call for reducing dependency on Chinese products and decreasing other potentially unstable factors in bilateral relations, calling it a form of protectionism.

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Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that a long-awaited German government strategy for relations with China that pointed to a “systemic rivalry” went “against the trend of the times, and will only aggravate divisions in the world.”

Wang said the two countries were “partners rather than rivals,” a typical ruling Chinese Communist Party formulation for dismissing criticism.

“We believe that to engage in competition and protectionism in the name of de-risking and reducing dependen-cy, and to overstretch the concept of security and politicize normal cooperation will only be counterproductive and create artificial risks,” Wang told reporters at a daily briefing.

Germany has Europe’s biggest economy and its strategy seeks to balance robust trade ties with China, its biggest single trading partner in recent years, against wariness over Beijing’s growing assertiveness and refusal to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The 64-page document approved by Chancellor OIaf Scholz’s Cabinet builds on Germany’s first national security strategy, issued a month ago. Scholz’s three-party coalition had pledged when it took office in late 2021 to draw up a “comprehensive China strategy.”

In introducing the strategy, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that “for Germany, China remains a partner, competitor and systemic rival, but the aspect of systemic rivalry has in recent years increasingly come to the fore.”

“Anyone who listens to China knows with what self-confidence it will decisively influence the development of our world — more repressive at home and more offensive abroad,” Baerbock said. “China has changed and so our China policy must change too.”

In its strategy, the government said it is committed to ensuring that economic cooperation with China “becomes fairer, more sustainable and more reciprocal.”

It noted that “whereas China’s dependencies on Europe are constantly declining, Germany’s dependencies on China have taken on greater significance in recent years.”

The strategy also made clear that Germany wouldn't be deterred from doing business with self-governed Taiwan, which Beijing considers its own territory to be diplomatically isolated and an-nexed by force if necessary.

“The status quo of the Taiwan Strait may only be changed by peaceful means and mutual consent,” it said. “Military escalation would also affect German and Euro-pean interests.”

The document also called for cooperation across issues of global concern, partic-ularly the climate crisis.

The strategy was released a few weeks after Scholz and about half of his Cabinet hosted a delegation led by new Chinese Premier Li Qiang, whose visit to Berlin was his first foreign trip since be-coming China’s No. 2 official in March.

Both Scholz and Baerbock, making a solo visit earlier this year, have pushed China to use its close relations with Russia to advocate for an end to the war in Ukraine. That has elicited a public

Chinese commitment not to help arm Russia, but appears to have had no effect on Beijing's warm ties with Moscow.

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