Germany's Scholz presses China over Russian threat to global security


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on Tuesday that Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine threatens global security. The move was an apparent call for China to apply greater pressure on its neighbor and close partner to resolve the conflict.

Scholz also told Xi the potential use of nuclear weapons in the two-year war should not be spoken of, German media reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned last month that Russia was ready to use nuclear weapons if its sovereignty or independence was threatened.

Scholz told Xi that Germany's “core interests” were impacted by the war against Ukraine, which has threatened to spread into a regional conflict while disrupting energy and global food supplies and other trade.

Russia's actions "violate a principle of the United Nations Charter and the principle of the inviolability of national borders”, Scholz was quoted as saying by German media.

China has refused to criticise the invasion and has maintained ties with Russia. While China says it is not sending military aid to Moscow, it has provided it with an economic lifeline to help it cope with sanctions from the West.

'Unfair support'

Scholz' visit coincided with EU concerns about the threat to European businesses from Chinese goods, including electric vehicles and other green technologies, flooding its markets.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has complained about China's overproduction being unfairly supported by "massive" state subsidies.

"China's exports of electric vehicles, lithium batteries and photovoltaic products have not only enriched global supply and alleviated inflationary pressure, but also contributed greatly to the response to climate change and green and low-carbon transformation," Xi told Scholz.

"(Germany and China) should be vigilant against rising protectionism, look at the issue of production capacity objectively and dialectically from a market-oriented and global perspective," Xi said.

Top trading partner

Despite the political and trade frictions, China was Germany's top trading partner for the eighth straight year in 2023, with €254.1 billion in goods and services exchanged between the sides, slightly more than what Germany traded with the U.S. but a 15.5 percent contraction from the year before.

This is Scholz's second trip to China since he became chancellor in late 2021. His previous visit was in November 2022 and essentially was a one-day trip because of the strict Covid restrictions still in place at the time.

It is his first visit since the German government last year presented its China strategy, which met with criticism from Beijing. Premier Li and a delegation of senior officials visited Berlin in June.

Human rights

On the eve of the visit, Human Rights Watch wrote an open letter to Scholz urging him to tell China to release hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, as well as end its "relentless repression" of peaceful activists across China.

The rights body also said China must revoke the "two draconian national security laws it imposes in Hong Kong".

Given the thin line Germany walks between criticising China and maintaining good trade relations, however, criticism on China's human rights record may not have been high on the agenda.

(with newswires)