N. Kramer’s Weeky Column
In Beijing they will be delighted that German Chancellor Scholz will travel alone to their country. He is the first foreign head of government to visit President XI after the Communist Party Congress. Some other EU leaders find this unfortunately, believing in that the EU acts better collectively. French President Macron therefore offered Scholz to travel with him to China. An idea that the German flatly rejected.
To avoid that China can easily play the different member states against each other, there should be a joint EU strategy. In recent years, the European Commission has already adjusted its China strategy. The country is no longer called a ‘partner’ or competitor’ but also a systemic rival’. Commission President Von der Leyen has already announced initiatives to reduce economic dependence on Beijing .
Unfortunately for her, as usual last EU summit showed that it is difficult to get everyone on the same page. During a three-hour exchange of views on China, the Baltic states proved to be strong supporters of a tough approach, based on the American model. Germany, through Scholz, was at the other end of the discussion. He brought in economic arguments. It is clear that Germany is going more and more its own way. Scholz put through a gigantic aid package of 200 billion euros in his own country, without any consultation of the rest of the EU. He also looks not particularly interested in his relationship with Macron.
Last week, the German government decided that the Chinese state-owned company Cosco may participate in one of the container terminals in the port of Hamburg. The German security services did not like it. Scholz’s green and liberal coalition partners were against it, as was the European Commission (of course). But Scholz, a former mayor of Hamburg, pushed the decision through. Business interests are great. One in three containers that pass through Hamburg come from or leave for China. If Germany puts the Chinese on hold, that trade will, no doubt, divert to somewhere else in the EU, Rotterdam, Zeebrugge or Antwerp for instance, where the Chinese are also present. In the EU, business doesn’t know solidarity.