In a very in-depth meeting Friday with visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine and warned against the nuclear conflict.

The German leader is in Beijing for a one-day visit that has sparked criticism for China’s tacit support for Russia, persistent controversies over economic ties and human rights. It comes after Xi further consolidated his authoritarian rule at a major Communist Party congress last month.

Scholz’s visit reflects the importance of Germany’s trade ties with China, the world’s second largest economy, particularly in the automotive and manufacturing sectors. Mercedes Benz alone sold 758,863 cars in China last year, more than in any other country, according to company data.

Scholz, who is traveling with several prominent German business executives, received a formal welcome from Xi, recently re-elected head of the ruling Communist Party, at the Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing.

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Xi noted that Scholz’s visit comes as the two countries mark more than 50 years of diplomatic relations dating back to when they revived economic exchanges, despite their rivalry in the Cold War, which remain a key part of relations to this day.

“At the moment, the international situation is complex and changing,” Xi said from the state broadcaster CCTV. “As influential powers, China and Germany should work together in times of change and chaos to make more contributions to world peace and development.”

Regarding Ukraine, Xi “stressed that China supports Germany and the EU in playing an important role in promoting peace talks and in promoting the construction of a balanced, effective and sustainable European security framework”, he said. CCTV.

The international community should “call upon all interested parties to exercise rationality and restraint, conduct direct contacts as soon as possible and create conditions for the resumption of negotiations (and) jointly oppose the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons” , Xi said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, poses for a photo with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on Friday, November 4, 2022.
(Kay Nietfeld / Pool photo via AP)

Without offering evidence, Russian leader Vladimir Putin reiterated Moscow’s unsubstantiated allegation that Ukraine is planning a false flag attack involving a radioactive dirty bomb it would try to pin to Russia.

Ukraine vehemently rejected the accusation and its Western allies dismissed it as “transparently false”. Ukraine has argued that Russia could be indicting it to serve as a cover for its possible plot to detonate a dirty bomb.

Scholz is the first leader of the Group of Seven Industrialized Nations to meet Xi since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, first detected in China in 2019, and the first European leader to visit China since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. . which Germany strongly opposed.

The diplomatically delicate journey comes as Germany and the European Union work on their strategy towards an increasingly assertive and authoritarian Beijing.

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Beijing has provided Moscow with diplomatic support by repeatedly calling for peace talks and refusing to support UN measures criticizing the invasion of Russia. He also accused the US and NATO of provoking the attack and harshly criticized the economic sanctions imposed on Russia.

In his opening speech, Scholz referred directly to the conflict that has created millions of refugees and disrupted the world’s food and energy markets, saying, “We are coming together at a time of great tension,” according to the German news agency DPA.

“In particular, I want to highlight the Russian war against Ukraine, which poses many problems for our rules-based world order,” said Scholz.

Scholz also touched on global hunger, climate change and developing world debt as important issues, DPA reported.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, second right, sits opposite Chinese President Xi Jinping, unseen, during their meeting in the Great Hall of the People on Friday, November 4, 2022 in Beijing.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, second right, sits opposite Chinese President Xi Jinping, unseen, during their meeting in the Great Hall of the People on Friday, November 4, 2022 in Beijing.
(Kay Nietfeld / Pool photo via AP)

Scholz, who relies on a coalition of his Social Democratic Party, the Greens and the Free Democratic Party, has been criticized for visiting China so soon after Xi’s triumph at last month’s congress, where he was nominated for a third five-year term and filled the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee with allies who support its vision of tighter control over society and the economy and a more confrontational approach to the West.

The visit also takes place amid mounting tensions over Taiwan and follows a UN report that China’s human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in the Xinjiang region could constitute crimes against Taiwan. humanity.

Scholz is accompanied on the journey by a dozen prominent German business leaders, including CEOs of Volkswagen, BMW, BASF, Bayer and Deutsche Bank, most of whom are doing a thriving business in China. Scholz will also meet company representatives in Beijing.

This has led some German observers to question whether the country is becoming overly dependent on the Chinese market, just as it has done with Russia for energy supplies.

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After lunch, Scholz and his delegation would meet Premier Li Keqiang, who nominally bears responsibility for the Chinese economy.

In an article for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Scholz said he would go to Beijing “precisely because business as usual is not an option in this situation.”

“It is clear that if China changes, the way we deal with China must also change,” said Scholz, adding that “we will reduce one-sided dependencies in the spirit of intelligent diversification.” Scholz also said he will address “difficult issues” such as the rights of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

Scholz’s messages will be closely scrutinized, particularly at home, where some have criticized him for normalizing China’s behavior. While his nearly year-long government has signaled a departure from predecessor Angela Merkel’s firmly trade-centric approach, her voyage follows internal discords over a Chinese shipping company’s major investment in a container terminal in Germany’s crucial port. of Hamburg.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attend a meeting in the Great Hall of the People on Friday, November 4, 2022 in Beijing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attend a meeting in the Great Hall of the People on Friday, November 4, 2022 in Beijing.
(Kay Nietfeld / Pool photo via AP)

With China still imposing stiff COVID-19 restrictions, its delegation is moving into an antivirus bubble, is being tested, and won’t be staying in Beijing overnight. At just 11 hours, it is the shortest trip ever made by a German leader to China. The crew that brought him to Beijing flew to South Korea to wait for the visit to end and avoid having to be quarantined.

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German officials say the trip is intended to probe where China is going and what forms of cooperation are possible.

An official stressed China’s “special responsibility” as Russia’s ally to help end the war in Ukraine and press Moscow to tone down its nuclear rhetoric; concerns about tensions in Taiwan and the region in general; Germany’s desire for a “fair playing field” in economic relations; and at present Scholz as president of this year’s G-7.

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