Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz has received China’s Premier Li Qiang with military honours in Berlin.
Li, who is on his first foreign trip since taking office, is expected to discuss trade, climate change and the war in Ukraine with Scholz on Tuesday.
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The meeting in Berlin is the seventh time Germany and China have held high-level government consultations and comes a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Chinese President Xi Jinping, indicating an effort by Beijing to reach out to the West and improve frosty relations.
Li, a former Communist Party secretary for Shanghai who took office in March as China’s No 2 official, met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday and also had dinner with Scholz at the chancellery.
Germany is keen to maintain good ties with China, its biggest trading partner, despite wariness over Beijing’s growing assertiveness and refusal to criticise Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Germany’s recently published national security strategy describes China as “a partner, competitor and systemic rival”.
Scholz has said he wants to avoid overreliance on Chinese trade and diversify Germany’s supply of key goods – an approach he called “derisking” – while rejecting the idea of “decoupling” from China.
The position was echoed last month by the Group of Seven leading industrial powers, most of which are heavily dependent on trade with China.
Li told Germany’s top CEOs on Monday that a lack of cooperation was the biggest risk.
“We should not artificially exaggerate ‘dependence’, or even simply equate interdependence with insecurity,” he told Germany’s top corporate brass, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
“Lack of cooperation is the biggest risk, and lack of development is the biggest insecurity,” he added.
Germany has acknowledged that major global problems such as climate change can only be resolved together with China, and the official motto of Tuesday’s meeting is “Acting sustainably together”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said last week that the choice of Germany as Li’s first stop “fully reflects the high importance China attaches to China-Germany relations”.
He said China looked forward to “sending positive signals to the world to strengthen dialogue and cooperation” and joining to address challenges “to promote the prosperity and development of the world economy”.
After visiting the European Union’s biggest economy Li will travel to France – the second-biggest – where he will attend the “Summit for a New Global Financing Pact”, which is being held at French President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative.