In the middle of the week Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) flies to China. After the controversial Cosco deal, the pressure on the chancellor is high. Many of his traffic light colleagues insist on a harder course. Federal Finance Minister Lindner now wants to limit the influence of the republic with a kind of “Lex China”.
“Did Germany learn from its Russia problem? The test could come in China,” writes the “New York Times” on Sunday. The Danish newspaper Politiken has a headline: “Wake up, Chancellor”. What is meant is Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his “blindness to geopolitical blindness,” the newspaper judges. Shortly after the controversial deal for the Chinese state-owned shipping company Cosco to enter the port of Hamburg, Scholz is preparing for his first visit to China.
Before his trip on Thursday, many domestically are also pushing for a more robust course against Beijing. From SPD leader Lars Klingbeil to Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) to major representatives of German business, warn against excessive Chinese influence. The pressure on the Chancellor is great these days.
The Federation of German Industries (BDI) appealed to the SPD politician to reduce one-sided German dependencies. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has warned against German dependence on China. It is the task of politics to learn from mistakes, said the Green politician in an interview with the ARD program “Report from Berlin”. “And that’s why I think it’s absolutely important that we never again make ourselves so dependent on a country that doesn’t share our values that we end up in a situation like the one we’re seeing now with a view to the war in Russia, that we are limited in what we can do.”
At the same time, Lindner announced legal precautions to limit Chinese influence in Germany. Beijing wants to “create dependencies and exert influence,” said Lindner of the Funke media group. “Therefore, foreign trade law must be changed. The Ministry of Finance has taken an initiative on the occasion of the Cosco case.”
By that he meant the controversial planned participation of the Chinese state shipping company Cosco in a container terminal in the port of Hamburg. The federal cabinet agreed on a compromise on Wednesday. Accordingly, the Chinese can only acquire a share of less than 25 percent in the container terminal in Tollerort. Cosco originally wanted 35 percent.
“The solution for the Port of Hamburg is responsible,” said Lindner. “The Chinese company is participating in a company that does not own the port, but only has a limited lease agreement for one of several terminals. There is therefore no strategic influence on the infrastructure.”
The Greens chairman Omid Nouripour called the legislation to protect critical infrastructures “holes” and “urgently needs to be revised, as already agreed in the coalition agreement,” he told the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper”. The deputy head of the Greens parliamentary group, Konstantin von Notz, also sees a need for further action.
SPD chairman Lars Klingbeil also wants clear exclusion criteria for future security-related transactions with China. “China has to stay out when it comes to security, the sovereignty of our continent,” said Klingbeil on Sunday at the federal congress of the SPD youth organization (Jusos) in Oberhausen. “When it comes to digitization, when it comes to critical infrastructure, when it comes to the question of artificial intelligence, of data, of quantum computers, of all these questions, then China has no place in Europe there.” On the disregard for human rights in In China, there should be no silence on the part of social democracy, said the SPD leader.
BDI President Siegfried Russwurm expressed concern about “unilateral dependencies” on China. “Germany is now heavily dependent on China for many mineral raw materials.” In contrast to oil and gas, for example, there are no national strategic reserves in Germany for mineral raw materials.
The German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) called for the Chinese authorities to use the same rules of the game in view of the patronage many German managers complained about. “The increasing protectionism in the People’s Republic is a problem from the point of view of the German economy,” said DIHK General Manager Martin Wansleben.
“The country itself tends to be more isolated, but wants to be more involved everywhere in the world, including here in Germany.” That is why it is so important that the Federal Chancellor advocates “mutually identical rules, i.e. reciprocity. Europe must also position itself clearly here,” Wansleben made clear.
The wholesale association BGA advocates closer cooperation with other countries. “If the federal government wants to reduce dependence on China, then it must significantly improve trade relations with other countries,” says BGA President Dirk Jandura. “We finally need free trade agreements with value partners in the transatlantic region, the Mercosur countries, but also with India and other countries in East and Southeast Asia.” In addition, new trade strategies should be developed – “for example for Africa,” demands Jandura.
But thanks to decades of political support, German companies are now so closely intertwined with China that “decoupling” would have serious consequences for the German economy. The best-known example of a company that depends on China is Volkswagen, the group makes forty percent of its sales in China. The same applies to the sportswear manufacturer Adidas, for example, which suffered from calls for a boycott by Chinese nationalists last year.