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German Chancellor’s visit to China sparks controversy


Taipei, Taiwan– The timing of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s impending trip to China and the signals he will send to Beijing have raised questions in his country, a German member of the European Parliament said on Thursday.

Reinhard Butikofer of the Green Party, part of the ruling coalition, told Taiwan that Scholz’s one-day trip is “probably the most controversial visit to the country in 50 years”.

Scholz, who will travel to Beijing on Friday, will be the first European leader to visit China since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Germany strongly opposed. Beijing has provided Moscow with diplomatic support, accused the United States and NATO of instigating the attack, and has been a vocal critic of punitive economic sanctions imposed on Russia.

Some within the ranks of Scholz’s three-party governing coalition questioned at least the timing of his visit. His trips to Ukraine and Russia in February also sparked controversy.

Butikofer, who is part of a group of European lawmakers visiting Taiwan, spoke at a joint press conference from his hotel room, where he was in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 .

“Just like in other European countries and in the EU, all together, Chinese politics will be in transformation in transition for some time,” Butikofer said. “We cannot go back to yesterday’s Chinese politics here, because realities have changed.”

Scholz’s visit also comes as Chinese investment in a container terminal at the Port of Hamburg has raised concerns in Washington and elsewhere that China is gaining a major grip on key infrastructure in an allied country.

Scholz downplayed the deal and in a compromise China’s COSCO was allowed to take a stake in the port below 25%, barring it from blocking company decisions.

Despite the disputes, trade links remain crucial. China was Germany’s biggest trading partner in 2021 for the sixth consecutive year, its biggest source of imports and its second largest export destination after the United States.

Scholz pledged to use his trip to advocate for Chinese moderation and help to calm situations with Ukraine and Taiwan.

In the face of Chinese threats to annex Taiwan by military force, the autonomous island republic has attracted growing support from Western politicians, even though their governments only maintain unofficial relations with Taipei out of respect for Beijing.

Butikofer said Germany’s governing coalition had agreed on a first-ever “clear expression of support for Taiwanese democracy against Chinese aggression”, as well as Taiwan’s “meaningful participation” in the international organizations it is currently excluded at the insistence of China.

Parliamentarians Els Van Hoof from Belgium, Sjoerd Sjoerdsma from Holland and Mykola Kniazhytskyi from Ukraine were visiting with Butikofer.

At a press conference, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said the delegation’s visit “demonstrates the strength of relations between Taiwan and the European Union and the bond that unites us with democracies sharing the same ideas around the world”.

Sjoerdsma said the visit had particular resonance after last month’s congress of China’s ruling bi-decade Communist Party, during which Xi Jinping reiterated Beijing’s determination to “reunite” with Taiwan. The parties split amid civil war in 1949 and the vast majority of Taiwanese reject Beijing’s calls to accept Chinese rule.

“We have a message for Beijing and I think the central message of our visit here is … that Taiwan should not be isolated, but that contact will only increase, that we will not be intimidated, it will come more often, and that our relationships and friendships should not be determined by others,” Sjoerdsma said.

ABC

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