German Chancellor in Beijing, huge setback to EU

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China’s Xi Jinping has urged deeper economic co-operation with Germany, during a visit by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Beijing.

The trip has sparked controversy in Germany and concern elsewhere in Europe, after the Chinese leader cemented his grip on power.

Mr Scholz spoke of having “economic ties as equals, with reciprocity”.

President Xi said the two countries should work together in “times of change and turmoil”.

The chancellor’s visit – the first by a G7 leader since the coronavirus pandemic – follows an extraordinary and bitter row within the Berlin government.

It had emerged that a Chinese company was poised to buy a significant stake in a part of the port of Hamburg. No fewer than six government ministers reacted furiously.

The deal, they argued, would give China significant influence over critical German infrastructure. Germany’s security services also urged caution.

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But the German chancellor appeared insistent the deal should go ahead. He reportedly pushed through an agreement, albeit one that limited the size and influence of the stake, reducing it to 24.9%.

No-one is quite sure why he seemed so determined. A former mayor of Hamburg, Mr Scholz remains close to the city authorities who argued that the deal represented vital investment.

But plenty of other commentators suspect an ulterior motive; that Olaf Scholz did not want to turn up in Beijing without a “gift” for Xi Jinping.

That has raised both eyebrows and concerns.

As has the chancellor’s decision to take with him a delegation of German business executives. That was standard practice for his predecessor, Angela Merkel, who pursued a policy of “Change through Trade”, believing that economic ties could influence political relations with countries like China and Russia.

The chancellor’s visit comes hard on the heels of the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, at which President Xi tightened his grip on power and raised concerns in the West about his intentions towards Taiwan.

“The signal that’s being sent is that we want to extend and intensify our economic co-operation – that must be questioned,” says Felix Banazsak, a politician from the Green Party, a partner in Mr Scholz’s coalition government.

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