China’s Xi and Germany’s Scholz seek closer ties in controversial summit

China's Xi and Germany's Scholz seek closer ties in controversial summit

Mr Scholz will also meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the one-day trip, on which he is being accompanied by top business executives.

The delegation of more than 60 people was met on the tarmac at Beijing Airport by a military guard – as well as health workers in white hazmat suits who conducted mandatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in buses converted into mobile laboratories.

Mr Scholz’s PCR test was taken in his plane by a German doctor he brought with him and supervised by Chinese health officials, according to the German government.


China’s economic importance is seen by some in Berlin as more crucial than ever, as Germany hurtles towards a recession, battling an energy crisis triggered by the Ukraine war.

China is a major market for German goods, from machinery to vehicles made by the likes of Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

But German industry’s heavy dependence on China is facing fresh scrutiny after the over-reliance on Russian energy imports left it exposed when Moscow turned off the taps.

Mr Scholz’s approach is still underpinned by the idea that “we want to keep doing business with China, no matter what that means for the dependence of our economy, and for our ability to act”, opposition lawmaker Norbert Roettgen told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

Concern about China has also come from within Germany’s ruling coalition, with Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock saying mistakes made in the past with Russia must not be repeated.

Last month, a row erupted about whether to allow Chinese shipping giant Cosco to buy a stake in a Hamburg port terminal.

Mr Scholz ultimately defied calls from six ministries to veto the sale over security concerns, instead permitting the company to acquire a reduced stake.


There are also concerns that the trip – coming on the heels of Mr Xi securing a historic third term at the 20th Communist Party Congress last month – may have unsettled the United States and the European Union.

Berlin, however, says there have been consultations with key partners, while Scholz has insisted he is visiting China as a “European” as well as the leader of Germany.

He said direct talks with Chinese leaders were “all the more important” after the long hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a newspaper article, he promised to raise thorny topics like respect for civil liberties and the rights of minorities in Xinjiang.

But Beijing has already warned that “the Chinese side is opposed to interference in our internal affairs, and smearing us under the guise of discussing human rights issues”, said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.