China-Germany cooperation not 'risk' but opportunity: Xi
Visit injects positivity to bilateral, China-EU ties as Germany seeks stability
Published: Apr 16, 2024 10:29 PM
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) meets with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on April 16, 2024. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) meets with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on April 16, 2024. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday called on both China and Germany to view and develop bilateral relations from a long-term and strategic perspective, and work together to inject greater stability and certainty into the world. Xi made the remarks during a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who concluded his three-day China visit in Beijing after leading a grand delegation to Chongqing and Shanghai.

Against the backdrop of the EU's subsidy accusations on Chinese electric vehicles (EVs) and wind turbines, and the US-initiated "overcapacity" hype, Xi called for viewing the production capacity issue objectively and dialectically. The two leaders also had an in-depth exchange of views on the crisis in Ukraine and other international and regional issues of mutual interest, the Xinhua News Agency reported. 

On Tuesday, Xi and Scholz also took a stroll around the grounds of Diaoyutai State Guesthouse amid the mild breeze in the verdant spring, according to media reports. 

A friendly atmosphere could be felt throughout Scholz's visit, during which he visited German companies' China plants and had exchanges with students at Tongji University in Shanghai, an institute founded by a German doctor a century ago which has close cooperation with Germany. 

Scholz's full and extensive schedule and his remarks on some sensitive topics showed that the German Chancellor has maintained a strategic balance amid pressure from other parties like the EU and the US, said Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China. 

Always regarding Germany and the EU as partners, China can provide the certainty Germany is in urgent need of as three uncertainties - the Ukraine crisis, US presidential elections and the European Parliament elections, are lingering, Wang told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The positive results of the visit are beyond the expectations of some observers, and Wang also sees the leaders' meeting and Scholz's visit as injecting valuable and much needed positivity into turbulent China-EU relations.

When a populist wind seems to be growing stronger within the EU, leading to biased and combative opinions on China, it is hoped that Germany, after an in-depth engagement with China, will continue to lead the rational voices inside the EU, analysts said. 

Supply chain

During the Tuesday meeting, Xi noted that the industrial and supply chains of China and Germany are deeply intertwined and the markets of the two countries are highly interdependent. The mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Germany is not a "risk," but a guarantee for the stability of bilateral relations and an opportunity for the future, Xi said.

The two countries have huge potential for win-win cooperation in both traditional fields such as machinery manufacturing and automobiles and emerging fields including green transformation and digital artificial intelligence, Xi noted.

The two sides should carry forward the distinctive characteristics of mutual benefit and win-win outcomes and achieve mutual success, Xi said, adding that China's exports of electric vehicles, lithium batteries and photovoltaic products have not only enriched global supply and alleviated global inflationary pressure, but also contributed greatly to the global response to climate change and to a green and low-carbon transformation.

Noting that both China and Germany depend heavily on industry and support free trade and economic globalization, Xi said the two sides should be vigilant against rising protectionism, look at the issue of production capacity objectively and dialectically from a market-oriented and global perspective, adhere to economic principles and foster further cooperation, Xinhua reported.

For his part, Scholz said that through his visit in the past days, he was impressed by China's development achievements and the close, sound cooperation between German and Chinese companies. 

Germany is willing to continue to strengthen the relationship with China, deepen bilateral dialogue and cooperation in various fields, promote people-to-people exchanges in such areas as education and culture, which is important for both countries and the world at large, he said. 

Germany opposes protectionism and supports free trade. As an important member of the EU, Germany is willing to play an active role in promoting the good development of EU-China relations, Scholz said.

On Tuesday, Chinese Premier Li Qiang and the German chancellor jointly attended the Symposium of the China-Germany Economic Advisory Committee in Beijing with about 20 entrepreneurs from the two countries. 

Li stressed that the Chinese government is willing to work with the German government to provide more policy support to make cooperation between the two sides smoother and more efficient, and to promote the sustained, stable and healthy development of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries.

Germany has been China's largest trading partner in Europe for 49 consecutive years, while China has been Germany's largest global trading partner for eight consecutive years. 

Sun Yanhong, a senior research fellow at the Institute of European Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the grand delegation fully demonstrates the great importance Germany attaches to China. 

In regard to the thorny EV issue, Wang said that Scholz, after visiting Chinese plants, could better understand that the competitiveness of the Chinese EV industry does not come from "subsidies," but infrastructure, affordable energy and technological innovation. 

Imposing punitive tariffs would be lose-lose; China and Germany should focus on how make the cake bigger rather than how to cut it, said He Weiwen, a senior fellow from the Center for China and Globalization. "If China and Germany can cooperate on the EV sector, that is to say realizing benign competition, it would stimulate the sluggish global economy." 

Sun underlined the potential in cooperation on green transformation in a broader sense, such as AI and self-driving, and smart manufacturing.   

As the world's second- and third-largest economies, China and Germany have a global responsibility to smoothen cooperation and contribute to the stability of global supply and industrial chains, Sun said.

Helga Zepp-LaRouche, founder of Germany-based political and economic think tank the Schiller Institute, told the Global Times in an earlier interview that for an export economy like Germany, it would be "suicidal" to follow these calls for "de-risking."

Promoting peace 

Amid major geopolitical tensions and flashpoints, analysts stressed that although China and Germany have different systems, cultures and ideologies, their communication and coordination are crucial for retaining geopolitical stability to the utmost and promoting global peace. 

On the lingering Ukraine crisis which has brought Europe heavy losses, Xi proposed four principles to prevent crisis from spiraling out of control and to restore peace at an early date. 

"First, we should prioritize the upholding of peace and stability and refrain from seeking selfish gains. Second, we should cool down the situation and not add fuel to the fire. Third, we need to create conditions for the restoration of peace and refrain from further exacerbating tensions. Fourth, we should reduce the negative impact on the world economy and refrain from undermining the stability of global industrial and supply chains," Xi said. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said Tuesday that China and Germany are committed to upholding the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, including the maintenance of sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is the necessary foundation for a sustainable security architecture and should be respected. 

China and Germany encourage and support efforts to seek a political solution for peace in Ukraine and are willing to maintain close and active communication on the upcoming high-level meeting in Switzerland and other relevant international events in the future, Lin said.  

China and Germany jointly call for: opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; opposition to attacks on nuclear power plants and other peaceful nuclear facilities; proper resolution of international food security issues, contributing to ensuring global food security without hindering food production and exports; compliance with international humanitarian law, protection of civilians, early mutual release of prisoners of war, and respect for the basic rights of prisoners of war, the spokesperson noted. 

The issue has been a major obstacle to China-Germany and China-EU relations, causing political mistrust, therefore Sun believes that President Xi's proposals can better dispel misunderstandings on China's stance and consolidate the common ground, particularly not using nuclear weapons. 

High energy prices due to the crisis could continue to drag the German economy while a possible return of Donald Trump to the US presidency could lead to new tension in the transatlantic relationship, analysts said. The urgent task is to minimize the impact of geopolitical tensions and uncertainties, not seeding more confrontation or hostility, they said. 

Xi and Scholz on Tuesday also exchanged views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other international and regional issues of common concern.  

Scholz said that Germany is willing to enhance communication and coordination with China, jointly address global challenges such as climate change, and is committed to upholding the multilateral international order, promoting world peace and development, and opposes confrontation.