Foreign policy: Scholz arrived in Beijing for his first visit as chancellor

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has arrived in Beijing for his first visit as German head of government.

Foreign policy: Scholz arrived in Beijing for his first visit as chancellor

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has arrived in Beijing for his first visit as German head of government. His plane landed at the airport in the Chinese capital on Friday morning local time.

After his arrival, a meeting with head of state and party leader Xi Jinping is on the agenda. Scholz is the first Western head of government to meet Xi Jinping after his re-election as party leader almost two weeks ago.

Because of the continued strict corona restrictions in China, Scholz's visit lasts only eleven hours, making it shorter than any other chancellor's trip to the world's most populous country before. Since the beginning of the pandemic almost three years ago, the chancellor has been the first head of government from the group of large industrialized nations (G7) to visit China again. He also meets Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who is due to step down next March.

The Chancellor is accompanied by around a dozen top managers, including the CEOs of Volkswagen, BMW, BASF, Bayer and Deutsche Bank. Scholz will also meet local company representatives in Beijing. The timing of the trip so soon after the party congress where Xi Jinping further expanded his power is disputed. Chinese dissidents and the World Uyghur Congress had even called for it to be cancelled.

Shortly before his departure, Scholz had announced a new course towards China in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung". "It is clear that if China changes, the way we deal with China must also change." Scholz also wants to address "difficult issues" such as human rights issues and dealing with minorities during his talks in Beijing. Scholz expressed concern about the situation around Taiwan and indirectly warned China of an invasion.

Ai Weiwei defends chancellor over China trip

The most famous Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei has defended Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) from criticism because of his trip to China. Against the background of demands in advance not to travel, Ai Weiwei told the German Press Agency on Friday: "At least it's not a bad idea." In today's world, it would be unrealistic to sever relationships to achieve political ends. That never worked. "I don't think his visit to Beijing is unacceptable."

Contacts between heads of state and government usually take place for reasons of strategic dependency and cannot be prevented by moralism. It doesn't matter whether it's Scholz or other European leaders - the most important thing is that they clearly state what they stand for. "Respect cannot be earned when a relationship is built purely for profit," said the artist, now based in Portugal and often described as China's "social conscience".

"If values ​​and interests as well as one's own plight and risks are presented in an open manner, then that is a clear stance," said Ai Weiwei. This also demonstrates "self-confidence". But if Germany does not adhere to European values, it does not deserve the leading position that is expected of it. "The profit could not outweigh the losses."

Concerned that Germany might make similar mistakes with China as it did with Russia in the past, Ai Weiwei said: "What Germany is doing now can only be judged by history. Today, practically nobody can say." Scholz's visit is controversial, among other things, because he is the first Western head of government to travel to Beijing shortly after the party congress. At the congress, head of state and party leader Xi Jinping had extended his sole rule and had himself confirmed for a historically unusual third term.

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