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Schulz will go to China: will he “sell” a piece of Hamburg to Xi? | Federico Rambini

Olaf Schulz breaks lines e go to Beijing. Several sources in the German Chancellery have not yet officially leaked this news: The Berlin Prime Minister will visit China on November 3-4.

Not small news. Schultz will be the first leader of the Group of Seven countries to visit the People’s Republic of China since the outbreak of the epidemic (Now almost three years ago). A fortiori he would also be the first Western leader a Meet Xi Jinping in person After the latter concluded the Communist Party congress by collecting approval for a third term.

Schultz’s trip to Beijing will take place two weeks before the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, where they will both participate (the Bali summit, in which there was also talk of a possible meeting between Biden and Putin).

To make the announcement of this trip even more explosive is Hamburg case. German media claims that Schulz – the former mayor of Hamburg – will support the operation by the Chinese shipping giant Cosco intends to buy 35% of a container terminal in the big port from northern Germany. If the operation is successful, it will be so One of the largest Chinese investments As part of the New Silk Roads (Bilt and Road Initiative). China will occupy a strategic infrastructure in the heart of Europe, far more important than the port of Athens (which it actually controls) or the port of Liguria and Trieste where China has a less important presence.

Tensions in Western Capitals

What importance should be ascribed to this decision by Schulze? Officially not causing a scandal: Unlike relations between the West and Russia, relations with China are not subject to sanctions (With some exceptions, for human rights violations, but they are partial sanctions compared to those imposed on Russia), there is no diplomatic rupture. There is no point in hiding that the Chancellor’s journey will be followed nervously by other Western capitals.

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Relations with China have long been in a state of collapse. Talking about a second Cold War (expect the title of an article of mine published in 2019…) is legitimate.

In the deterioration of relations they were weighing Many of Xi Jinping’s works: the suppression of protests in Hong Kong and the destruction of the rule of law on that island; human rights violations of Uyghurs in Xinjiang (1 million inmates in reeducation camps); Escalation of military provocations around Taiwan. growing economic nationalism; The country is lying about the origin of Covid that has contributed to the delay in preventive measures around the world; Finally, Xi’s infamous decision to support Putin by declaring his unlimited friendship on the occasion of the attack on Ukraine.

With Xi continuing to espouse Putin’s theory of NATO’s alleged encirclement of Russia as the root of the conflict, it is no wonder that Western countries view China as a hostile power.

German opportunism (not the only one)

What about Germany’s position? As was true until February of this year for relations with Russia, German governments also had great ambiguity toward China. It must be remembered that for decades Germany was the only developed economy to have systematic trading assets in its trade with Beijing, thanks to China’s thirst for German-made technologies.

Therefore, even more than other western countries, Germany bet on a positive relationship with the People’s Republicand embracing interested theories such as the idea that integration into the global economy and the development of trade with the West would lead to the development of the Chinese system in a liberal, democratic and peaceful sense.

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It was not an exclusively German theory: it was announced by everyone, Americans and Europeans. But Germany combined theory and practice, reaping more benefits from its relations with China than any other country.

The EU-China investment agreement is on hold (for now)

In fact, another year before the invasion of Ukraine, Angela Merkel and Ursula von der Leyen pushed for an EU-China agreement on the liberalization of investments. Suspicion now is that Schulze will want to relaunch that agreement, though huge reservations have grown in the meantime about Xi’s credibility, about his rearmament, over his increasingly aggressive vision of the challenge against the West.

Schulz has to contend with internal opposition: in particular the Green Party, which is a member of the ruling coalition, is highly critical of human rights abuses by the Beijing government; The Liberal Party is also part of the German alliance allied with NATO in viewing China as a dangerous strategic competitor. The current hostility to China is well represented in the European Parliament where it could block attempts to relaunch the investment agreement between Brussels and Beijing.

But Schulz certainly doesn’t want to go on an empty ride. At the very least, by going to Xi’s court, he would want to consider himself the least anti-Chinese Western leader.

This text is from the World Newsletter, which Federico Rambini signs every Saturday. Just for registration click here.

October 22 2022 11:06 AM – Change October 22 2022 | 11:06