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Delicate meeting of German chancellors with the Chinese boss

Delicate meeting of German chancellors with the Chinese boss

 


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An official Chinese According to the text, the Beijing summit which ended on April 16 reflects the strong ties that unite the world's second and third economies. A morning of talks with Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, punctuated by a fraternal walk in the garden and ended with a cordial lunch, appears to have marked a friendly climax to the three-day visit to China of Olaf Scholz, the chancellor German.

But not everything is as rosy as spring. For starters, the German public was denied a live view of their chancellors cavorting in Beijing because ZDF, a German state television channel, was unable to obtain Chinese press accreditation from the host country's notoriously clumsy bureaucrats. But behind this quibble were much more serious problems. Just before his trip to China, his second since becoming chancellor in 2021, and for which he has attracted widespread criticism in Europe, Mr. Scholz said in an interview that even if a US-style decoupling of the German economy and China was a bad idea, it would be wise to reduce the risks. In Germany, the pacifying effect of economic contacts has certainly been overestimated, said the former mayor of Hamburg. No one has this illusion today.

This may be true for Germany, which learned a lesson after courting Russia for decades with big energy deals, only to watch it invade Ukraine. Yet Mr. Xi's statement underscores a contrary message. He said that the interweaving of economies is not a risk but an opportunity, as well as the guarantee of a stable relationship.

This difference means a lot to the bosses of 12 large German companies who accompanied Mr. Scholz. Many have deep exposure as investors in China, or face increasing Chinese competition. A recent report by economists at Allianz, a German insurance giant, suggests that the two countries are moving from complementarity to substitution, as China begins to replace Germany even in high-growth countries. value manufacturing. An example: since 2019, German machines have exported to ASEAN China's exports of the same products fell by 14%, and China's exports of the same products increased by 31%. China is pushing Germany aside, even in Europe. In some sectors, such as solar panels and basic ingredients for essential pharmaceuticals, it already enjoys a near monopoly.

So when Mr. Xi spoke out against protectionism, Mr. Scholzis' response was probably as stilted as Chinese leaders' response to German badgers on issues such as Ukraine or human rights. The fact is that while both countries want to protect their bilateral relations from the more vocal behavior of their allies (for China, that means Russia; for Germany, it's the United States and some of the most hawkish European countries ), they both feel that this is not sustainable. Soon, China will have to stop pretending that Germany, and even Europe, is acting tougher only because of American pressure, and accept that Europeans do indeed have their own reasons to distrust China. And Germany will have to stop pretending that there is a big difference between risk reduction and decoupling.

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2/ https://www.economist.com/europe/2024/04/18/the-german-chancellors-awkward-meeting-with-chinas-boss

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