German Chancellor Scholz under fire over alleged support for China project

AFP
AFP - [email protected] • 20 Oct, 2022 Updated Thu 20 Oct 2022 18:00 CEST
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Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) takes part in a debate in the Bundestag on October 20th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz faced a barrage of criticism on Thursday after a media report accused him of planning to push through Chinese investment in a Hamburg port despite grave reservations in his government.

Chinese shipping giant Cosco is due to take a 35 percent stake in a container terminal in Hamburg, in a deal agreed last year but not yet authorised by the federal government.

German broadcasters NDR and WDR on Thursday reported that the Chancellery is planning to approve the deal despite opposition from six different ministries in Scholz's coalition government with the Greens and the liberal FDP.

"This is neither good for our economy nor for our security," Green party co-leader Omid Nouripour told the t-online news portal.

Michael Kruse, head of the FDP in Hamburg, called the project "dangerous", while conservative foreign policy expert Juergen Hardt said it would enable China to gain access to "sensitive internal insights".

"This is exactly what we should not serve up to the Chinese on a silver platter," Hardt told Die Welt newspaper.

According to the report by NDR and WDR, the deal would effectively be approved automatically if the government does not intervene by the end of October.

Rumours have been swirling that Scholz is planning to visit China in early November.

China is a key trading partner for Germany, especially for its flagship automotive industry.

But the relationship has been soured in recent years by China's strict zero-Covid policy, the escalation of tensions over Taiwan and concern over human rights issues in the Muslim-dominated Xinjiang region.

Many voices in Germany, including Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, have called for more caution in trade with China, warning that Europe's biggest economy must learn from the breakdown of its relations with Russia.

But Scholz has so far not joined that chorus and even insisted at a business summit last week that Germany should maintain business relations with China.

"We do not have to decouple ourselves from some countries, we must continue doing business with individual countries -- and I will say explicitly, also with China," he said.

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AFP 2022/10/20 18:00

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