Scholz boosts China cooperation despite rights record

Scholz boosts China cooperation despite rights record

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says the west must avoid dividing the world into blocs as he looks to boost relations with China.

He wrote in Foreign Affairs that Europe needs to recognise that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had initiated a new era or turning point in international affairs.

“What we are witnessing is the end of an exceptional phase of globalisation, a historic shift accelerated by, but not entirely the result of, external shocks such as the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine,” the 64-year-old wrote in the magazine this weekend.

But critics have condemned his attitude toward China. 

Scholz in October approved the sale of a 25-per-cent interest in one of Hamburg’s port terminals to Chinese conglomerate Cosco, despite serious objections from within his cabinet. 

Cosco already owns the port of Piraeus – which serves Athens and is the biggest in Greece – and large stakes in Bilbao in Spain and Zeebrugge and Antwerp in Belgium.

A leaked German government report suggests a bilateral project aims to extend a “new Silk Road” of Chinese trade routes across Europe to Duisburg, a key River Rhein port for German industry, and several French ports that are part-owned by the Chinese shipping firm CMP.

The German cabinet is divided over Chinese policy and what German infrastructure Chinese firms should be allowed to acquire.

A draft China strategy from the Green-controlled foreign ministry, which is expected to be published in 2023, includes criticism of Chinese human rights abuses and restrictions on official support for German investments in China.

While in Beijing in November, Scholz raised concerns over Chinese support for Russia and its threats of a Taiwan invasion but he also looked to boost trade and cooperation on the climate crisis.

It has been reported that Chinese telecoms giant Huawei is now providing nearly 60 per cent of the components for the new German 5G mobile network.

But the German authorities also blocked two Chinese takeover bids for German semiconductor factories, saying they would “endanger Germany’s public order and security”.

In Foreign Affairs, Scholz argued that “dialogue and cooperation must extend beyond the democratic comfort zone”.

“Many assume we are on the brink of an era of bipolarity in the international order,” he said. “They see the dawn of a new cold war approaching, one that will pit the United States against China.

“I do not subscribe to this view … We must also avoid the temptation to once again divide the world into blocs.”


The Chinese acquisition of the Greek port of Piraeus rang alarm bells in Europe. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

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