Last December, in a speech outlining the agenda of his government, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz demanded that “we need to base our China policy on the China we find in reality,” promising to pursue “German and European interests” with “great self-confidence.” Yet, Scholz shows very little of this realism and self-confidence as he prepares for this Friday’s inaugural visit to Beijing to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Last week, Scholz gave in to Chinese pressure and pushed through a deal allowing China Ocean Shipping Company (known as Cosco) to buy a stake in a terminal at Germany’s main port of Hamburg—against the objections of six ministers. This put Scholz at odds with an emerging consensus across party lines that Germany urgently needs to reduce its dependency on China. It also signaled weakness vis-à-vis Xi, who just self-confidently presided over his coronation as leader for life. It’s high time for Scholz to change course and get serious about Xi’s China. He needs to use his visit in Beijing to confront the Chinese leader on German and European interests, including Xi’s support for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war and his threats against Taiwan.