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Germany and China aim for June summit amid Taiwan tensions

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Premier Li Qiang plan to meet in Berlin on June 20.


April 25, 2023

Germany hopes to use its talks with China to deter Beijing from escalating tensions over Taiwan | Peter Wutherich/AFP via Getty Images

BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is keen to advance economic and climate cooperation with China and defuse tensions over Taiwan as part of high-level government talks he plans to host in June.

Scholz and key Cabinet ministers will meet with Chinese counterparts, led by Premier Li Qiang, for bilateral government consultations in Berlin on June 20, according to two persons briefed on the plans. A third person cautioned, however, that the date and format of the talks may still change.

If confirmed, the German-Chinese high-level talks would come about a week ahead of a key EU leaders' summit on June 29-30, where EU-China relations will be high on the agenda, as European Council President Charles Michel announced this week. EU foreign ministers will also discuss China relations at an informal meeting in Sweden on May 12.

Germany hopes to use its talks with China to deter Beijing from escalating tensions over Taiwan, which Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said earlier this month would be a "horror scenario." Berlin also wants Beijing to halt its (not-so-indirect) support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

On the economic front, with China being Germany's most important trade partner, Scholz's government is keen to further opening the Chinese market to foreign investments — especially as German carmakers seek to play a bigger role in the fast-growing Chinese electric vehicle market. Scholz has said that he wants German business to "de-risk" from China by diversifying supply chains, but has resisted U.S. calls to wind down economic links with the People's Republic.

"We are against decoupling; we are for de-risking," Scholz said last month in Brussels, adding that the consequence of Russia's invasion of Ukraine was that companies around the globe were seeking to diversify their supply chains.

Baerbock warned during her recent China trip that Germany, but also China, would be particularly affected by escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait, as about 50 percent of world trade and 70 percent of global semiconductor production is shipped through these waters.

Berlin is also keen to push China, which accounts for nearly one-third of global carbon dioxide emissions, to take on a more ambitious role in fighting climate change.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner is planning to travel to China in early May to discuss cooperation on financial matters, ahead of a G7 finance ministers' meeting in Japan on May 11-13.

The German government is also drafting its first China strategy, but the document might be delayed until after the government consultations with China, officials say.


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