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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visits China with an eye on trade

Scholz’s trip to China has been criticized for its focus on making deals with an increasingly authoritarian Beijing.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in Beijing in the first visit by the leader of a Group of Seven (G7) country to China in three years.

Leading a high-level business delegation, Scholz’s arrival on Friday marks the return of a leader of the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 19 in 2019. .

The visit also signals the German leader’s desire to boost a vital economic relationship with Beijing, which has drawn criticism over Scholz’s apparent desire to strike deals with a nation becoming more authoritarian under President Xi Jinping.

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German industry’s heavy reliance on China is also facing new scrutiny, particularly after Germany’s overreliance on Russian energy imports, which left the country deeply exposed when Moscow cut off supply in retaliation for sanctions imposed for its invasion. from Ukraine.

German opposition politician Norbert Roettgen told the Rheinische Post newspaper that Scholz’s approach to Beijing appears to be underpinned by the idea that “we want to continue doing business with China, no matter what that means for our economy’s dependency and for our ability to Act”.

“The chancellor is pursuing a foreign policy that will lead to a loss of confidence in Germany among our closest partners,” Roettgen of the conservative CDU party said, accusing Scholz of “going it alone” in his approach to China.

Berlin says there were consultations with key partners in the US and Europe before the visit, and Scholz also promised “candid exchange” with Chinese leaders on sensitive issues.

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China’s ‘internal affairs’

Scholz and his delegation of top German business executives will hold talks on the day trip with President Xi as well as Premier Li Keqiang.

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The German and Chinese economies are deeply intertwined. China is a crucial market for German products, from machinery to vehicles made by Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Chinese state media have praised the visit.

Scholz said in a newspaper interview that “we will not ignore controversies” and listed several sensitive issues that would be raised in talks with his Chinese counterpart. They include respect for civil liberties in China, human rights in the Xinjiang region, where the United Nations has said treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority could amount to crimes against humanity, and the status of Taiwan.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Thursday that China looked forward to a “successful” visit and that “cooperation far exceeds competition” between China and Germany.

“China and Germany are partners, not rivals,” the spokesman said.

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“Both countries have benefited from mutual growth and practical bilateral cooperation. A healthy relationship between China and Germany is good not only for the two countries, but also for the ties between China and the EU and the world,” she said.

The spokesman also warned that China will not tolerate criticism on matters that are “internal affairs.”

“For example, in Xinjiang, China’s position is consistent and clear. These are China’s internal affairs, which do not tolerate foreign interference. On so-called ‘human rights’ issues, China respects and protects human rights,” she said.

“China is against using human rights discussions as a pretext to interfere in China’s internal affairs or smear and discredit China,” he added.

Before the visit, Chinese dissidents and the World Uyghur Congress had asked Scholz to cancel his trip.

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