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Scholz’s appeal to Beijing for rapprochement despite the controversy

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called on Beijing on Friday for “greater” cooperation with China, despite Western distrust of the second world power, and the two countries opposed any use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. “We are not in favor of a decoupling” of economic relations with China, he said before a meeting with his counterpart Li Keqiang in Beijing. “But it is also clear to us that this is linked to fair economic relations, with reciprocity, to the question of reciprocal openness to investments,” he added. Highly controversial, this few hours’ trip is the first of a European Union and G7 leader to China since the start of the pandemic nearly three years ago. The visit, which comes immediately after the reconfirmation of President Xi Jinping as head of the Chinese Communist Party and his country, is viewed with a critical eye in Germany, but also in France, Brussels and Washington. Earlier, in an interview with President Xi Jinping, Olaf Scholz had indicated that he wanted to “further develop” economic cooperation with Beijing, despite warnings about his country’s excessive dependence on China. “We are meeting at a time of great tension caused in particular by Russia’s war in Ukraine,” Scholz said, as China claims its neutrality, seen by Westerners as unspoken support for the Kremlin. The chancellor asked President Xi to use his “influence” on Russia to end his “war of aggression” against Ukraine. Opposition to nuclear power – Germany and China jointly announced their opposition to any idea of ​​a nuclear attack on Friday, while Moscow has repeatedly raised this threat in Ukraine. “The war in Ukraine creates a dangerous situation for the whole world (…) and in China too we know here that an escalation would have consequences for everyone,” Olaf Scholz told the press. “It was very important for me to emphasize, to say clearly that an escalation” of the war “in the form of the use of a tactical nuclear weapon is excluded,” stressed the chancellor. “I am very happy that at least an agreement has been reached on this matter,” observed Mr. Scholz. The Chinese account also mentions the Beijing opposition. Referring back to the visits to China of his predecessor, the Christian Democrat Angela Merkel (12 trips in 16 years to power), the Social Democrat Scholz is accompanied by a delegation of industrialists, including the bosses of Volkswagen and BASF. However, the dependence of the EU’s largest economy on China, where German companies make a large part of their profits, is increasingly being questioned. The German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, said she “no longer depends on a country that does not share our values”, at the risk of making itself “politically vulnerable to blackmail”. – “A legitimacy” – “China and Germany must respect each other” and “jointly resist interference” in their relations, Xi Jinping insisted in front of his host. “We hope that Germany pursues a positive policy towards China,” Xi said on state television CCTV. “As long as Germany does not criticize Beijing, relations will be harmonious, this is essentially the message sent” by Xi Jinping, decodes for AFP Thorsten Benner, of the Institute for Global Public Policy (GPPi) ​​in Berlin. Getting off the plane, the German delegation, which numbers about sixty people, was greeted by military guards and health personnel in full suit to carry out screening tests for Covid-19. The strict zero Covid policy has led Beijing to close its borders since 2020. “Despite the resentment and pressure against Chinese industrial policies”, Scholz “seems to decide to ignore it for the moment”, notes political scientist Shi Yinhong of Renmin University of Beijing. This trip “gives international legitimacy” to Xi Jinping and “shows that China is not isolated,” Noah Barkin, a researcher with the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, told AFP. In a statement, Volkswagen boss in China, Ralf Brandstatter, flew to the Chancellor’s aid: “in Europe and Germany many believe that this visit is inappropriate. For me it is not so”. “Decoupling cannot be a serious option for the two countries”, he insisted, recalling that “China is Germany’s most important trading partner”. pw-clp-fresa / sbr / lch

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