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Scholz China Visit Signals Germany’s Shift Away from West

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Germany Charts Independent Course with China 

In an unprecedented shift, Germany is embracing a more non-aligned role and pursuing closer ties with China. Chancellor Scholz ‘s landmark visit signals Berlin pivoting away from the West’s ideological confrontation with Beijing.  

Germany has been a pillar of the Western alliance, often critical of China’s human rights record. But with China now Germany’s top trading partner, Scholz is prioritizing business over political differences.  

His high-profile trip to bolster economic links represents Berlin adopting a more neutral posture between China and the West. Facing global rifts, Germany is charting its own course driven by pragmatic self-interest rather than bloc loyalty.

This recalibration has sent shockwaves through Western capitals accustomed to Germany’s reliability. But Scholz’s flexible approach recognizes China’s emergence as a global power that can’t be isolated.

Rather than taking sides, Germany seeks to engage Beijing to achieve stability and progress on several issues. Scholz’s visit reflects multipolarity replacing rigid bipolarity in the international order.

Scholz Visits China Despite Western Warning

In a groundbreaking move that signals a major geopolitical realignment, Germany appears ready to abandon its long-standing role as a guardian of liberal Western values in order to pursue closer ties with China.

Germany has long prided itself on being a stalwart defender of Western ideals and values. As a leading member of both the European Union and NATO, it has helped uphold the post-World War II international order led by the United States. 

But in recent years, cracks have begun to show in Germany’s commitment to the West as its leaders court closer ties with China, a strategic rival to the US. This shift is being driven by Germany’s economic dependence on China and domestic political pressures, signaling a willingness by Berlin to downplay differences with Beijing for the sake of commerce. 

The shift was on full display as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz embarked on a high-stakes visit to China. Scholz’s three-day trip, the first by a Western leader to China in over three years, saw the German leader meet with President Xi Jinping and visit major industrial centres. 

Clearly China sees Germany as the weak link within the Western alliance, a perception reinforced by Scholz’s visit coming just days after he opened a TikTok account in an apparent overture to the Chinese-owned social media platform. 

With Scholz desperate to revive Germany’s struggling economy ahead of elections, Xi knows he has leverage to drive a wedge between Berlin and its allies.

Scholz’s kowtowing to Beijing represents a break from Germany’s historically hawkish stance on China. In the 2000s under Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany had been a leading voice calling out China’s human rights abuses and unfair trade practices. 

But as China grew into an economic powerhouse, Germany became increasingly dependent on access to its vast markets and cheap manufacturing. 

Last year, China overtook the US as Germany’s biggest trading partner. Major German firms like Volkswagen, BASF and Siemens now rely on China for up to half their global revenue. 

For Scholz, maintaining business-friendly ties with Beijing has become an economic imperative, even if it means turning a blind eye to Xi’s authoritarianism and regional aggression.

Scholz’s visit is taking place despite objections from the United States, which has been urging its allies to decouple from China and see it more as a strategic competitor. But Germany’s long-time security reliance on the US appears to be the only factor preventing a full embrace with China. 

German business leaders make little secret that they see their future tied to China, not America.

The tense geopolitics is forcing Germany into a delicate balancing act between its two biggest trading partners. While paying lip service to Western concerns about China’s behavior, Scholz is signaling Germany will not join any anti-China bloc or directly confront Beijing. His goal seems to be preserving economic ties with minimal disruption.

But China is forcing Germany’s hand as it aggressively expands its influence in Europe. Chinese investments in strategic sectors like ports and telecoms have raised alarm in Brussels and Washington. Meanwhile, Chinese industrial subsidies and dumping of low-cost products are decimating German and EU manufacturers. 

Domestically, Germany’s economic dependence on China prevents any pivot in policy. With the German economy teetering on the edge of recession after the pandemic and Ukraine war, an economic rupture with China would be catastrophic for German firms and workers. 

Economy And Russia Drive Scholz ‘s Embrace of China

Also, in an effort to rally Chinese support for ending Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Scholz stressed to Xi that as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has a special responsibility to uphold peace. 

He directly called on Xi to leverage China’s substantial influence with Russia and Putin to convince Moscow to stop its military aggression and withdraw its forces.  

Scholz highlighted that Russia’s actions severely undermine security in Europe and directly damage core Western interests and the international order. He emphasized the importance of China using its unique sway with Moscow to advance diplomatic efforts toward peace.

In response, Xi agreed to back a possible peace conference between Ukraine and Western nations, which notably excludes Russian participation. However, Xi also appeared to downplay the conference’s prospects without both sides present. 

This reflected China’s official stance as a purported neutral party, despite its close alignment with Russia.

Nevertheless, Scholz came away saying Xi’s verbal commitment showed that “China’s word carries weight in Russia.” He expressed optimism that Xi’s support for peace talks would help convince Putin to end the invasion, even without direct Russian involvement. 

But Trade still remained the major talking points during their extensive talks. The chancellor acknowledged growing concerns within Europe about unfair competition from heavily subsidized Chinese exports flooding into European markets, especially in strategic sectors like electric vehicles. 

Scholz stated that “overproduction and competition around subsidies” needed to be addressed through cooperative dialogue rather than unilateral actions. His comments reflected EU worries about Chinese state subsidies to domestic companies like EV battery makers, allowing them to export products well below market prices.

The chancellor tread carefully on the issue, keenly aware of China’s importance as an export market. He argued that the EU “should not act out of protectionist self-interest” in investigating Chinese trade practices. 

However, Scholz did press China to ensure fair competition and a “level playing field” for European firms operating in its markets. He pushed for improved market access and equal treatment for German companies in China.

The chancellor argued that disputes over subsidies should be resolved through the World Trade Organization. But Xi showed little willingness to concede ground, defending China’s support for industries like green tech as benefiting the global economy.

Scholz’s balancing act reflects Germany’s quandary – eager to deepen trade ties with China but also facing pressure from Brussels and other EU states to confront China’s unfair trade policies. His rhetoric aimed at cooperation rather than confrontation.

Scholz’s visit highlighted the delicate balancing act Germany is attempting between the US and China. While conveying Western concerns over human rights and Russia, Scholz also strongly promoted German business interests in China. His rhetoric aimed for cooperation over confrontation.

The chancellor touted Germany’s commitment to economic engagement with China while gently warning about excess Chinese exports flooding European markets. However, Scholz tread carefully on the EU’s probes into Chinese subsidies, saying trade disputes should be resolved through fairness, not protectionism.

His nuanced stance reflects worries within the German business community about losing access to the lucrative Chinese market if tensions escalate. Major German firms like BMW and BASF have huge China operations and oppose jeopardizing exports.

On Russia’s war against Ukraine, Scholz pressed China to help broker peace talks and halt exports of dual-use technology aiding Russia’s military. But Xi offered no firm commitments, only vague calls for a diplomatic solution both sides endorse.

Scholz’s visit demonstrated China seeks to splinter European unity by appealing to Germany’s economic interests. Xi portrayed deepening German-Chinese business ties as mutually beneficial and a counter to US pressure.

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