During discussions with President Xi Jinping at Beijing, Olaf Scholz (German Chancellor) urged China that it use its influence over Russia to stop war in Ukraine.

Scholz stated that Russia’s nuclear threats are “irresponsible” and “highly dangerous” for both Russias.

The Chinese president has not condemned Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

However, he stated that the global community should support efforts to end the crisis peacefully. He also said that it was important to oppose any use of or threatened use by nuclear arms.

Germany and Europe are concerned about the Chinese leader’s recent clinging to power.

His visit to China by Mr Scholz is brief at 11 hours and quite controversial.

He is the Western leader who has traveled to Beijing for the first time since the global pandemic. Also, he will be the first person to meet President Xi since Xi tightened his grip at power at the Communist Party National Congress last year.

Many Europeans are skeptical about the timing, including Mr Scholz’s government members who worry that Mr Xi’s presence in Europe will tarnish his domestic reputation.

The German chancellor like Angela Merkel believes that China can solve all global problems through cooperation. He stated that face-to face discussions allowed for the discussion of even difficult issues.

There was a mutual acknowledgement of the difficulties; President Xi expressed his desire for cooperation in “times change and turmoil”.

There was agreement to continue discussing the war in Ukraine, global food security and energy security, and the global pandemic.

Germany’s position regarding Taiwan is reiterated by Scholz – any change in the status quo must take place peacefully and with mutual understanding – and on human Rights – these rights must be protected, especially for minorities living in Xinjiang.

The visit will also be closely watched in Europe’s capitals.

Mr Scholz promised a values-led foreign strategy and a change of approach to China when he came to power. He reiterated this pledge prior to his visit. He said, “If China is changing, then our approach must change.”

However, many people in Germany and Europe aren’t sure he is trustworthy. It may be because of a controversial proposal to sell a stake at Hamburg’s port to a Chinese firm.

Six of his ministers opposed him and the security service urged caution. But Mr Scholz reportedly managed to get an agreement through, though one that decreased the size and influence the stake. Berlin believed that Scholz wanted a “gift” for China.

And Mr Scholz chose to travel along with a delegation of executives representing German companies such Volkswagen, Bayer and BASF.

One Green politician stated that the signal is being sent was that they want to expand and intensify their economic cooperation. His party has long sought a more aggressive stance towards China.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption: Daimler expands its China operations

Angela Merkel, Mr Scholz’s predecessor, used to take executives with her. She believed that economic ties could have an influence on political relations with countries such as Russia and China.

Germany’s dependence upon cheap Russian energy revealed the weaknesses of this strategy. China is also now considered a rival in Berlin, despite being once a strategic partner.

Those who fear that Germany’s business is too closely linked to China will be shaken by President Xi’s call for “deeper cooperation” with Berlin on Friday. They ask what would happen in the event of China invading Taiwan.

This relationship has a significant impact on more than a million German jobs.

Daimler, which is a major car company, has more than a quarter of its vehicles sold in China. German businesses have invested more in China than ever in the first half of the year. BASF, the chemical company, just opened a new South China plant. It expects to spend EUR10bn (PS8.75bn), by the end this decade.

Few Berlinans would suggest that Germany “decouple from China”. On the eve, Mr Scholz was urged by a business leader to “decouple” from China. However, there is an enormous desire to protect Germany from too much dependency.

Mr. Scholz has to balance the delicate act. Protecting Germany’s economy without the risk of accusations (there have been a lot in recent months) that Scholz is putting German business interests before all else.

His response to China’s shift may prove to be the most important test of his chancellorship.

Germany is both the EU’s most powerful and influential economy. Its actions and words are important.

An old suggestion of mine was that Angela Merkel, former Angela Merkel, could sometimes be compared to Donald Trump in Europe because she put Germany first.

EU concerns were ignored to make way for lucrative German energy and trade deals with Russia and China. In order to prevent German taxpayers being saddled with shared debt, she demanded that the EU take austerity measures in response to the eurozone crisis.

Olaf Scholz is more than just a name for Mrs Merkel. It’s a successor in many ways, according to EU leaders.

His large aid package to German businesses suffering from high energy prices was interpreted as giving them unfair competitive advantages on the European single markets.

The EU-wide reaction to his trip in China, although announced but not coordinated with others, was mixed. France’s Emmanuel Macron warned Scholz that he was at risk of becoming isolated.

As Europe and Germany begin to wean off Russian gas dependency, the question is: Is Berlin too blinded by business deals and bound too closely to China?

Emmanuel Macron, French president, has been advocating for the EU to be less dependent on Beijing for years. Critics charged him with protectionism.

However, Europe realized that it should not rely so heavily upon the US to ensure its security after the global supply-chain collapses during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the “weaponization” of energy imports/exports in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion Ukraine.

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