Date: 20 January 2022 Author: Łukasz Kobierski
Li Keqiang’s First Conversation with the New German Chancellor
On January 17, 2022, Premier of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Li Keqiang held a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The talk concerned further cooperation in various domains. The Chinese side recalled good mutual relations and encouraged further pragmatic collaboration.
As reported by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the conversation took place at the initiative of the German side. A short statement about the talk could be found on the website of the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. According to it, the discussion concerned deepening bilateral partnership and economic relations, COVID-19 pandemic, environmental and climate protection cooperation, EU-China relations, and international affairs.
The Chinese side published a longer communique on Scholz’s statements. According to it, Scholz said, among others, that Germany is ready to work with China to prepare well for the new round of consultations between the two governments, and hopes that the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) will enter into force in September. However, these statements were not confirmed by the authorities in Berlin.
Li Keqiang recalled the 50th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations between the two countries. China wants to hold a new round of China-Germany intergovernmental consultations as soon as possible. The Premier of the PRC expressed hope that the two sides will “tap into the cooperation potential in advanced manufacturing, trade in services, digital economy, and climate change.” Moreover, he said that more than 2,000 Chinese companies in Germany and over 7,000 German enterprises in China “are the backbone of the bilateral cooperation.” In terms of relations with the EU, Li Keqiang encouraged to treat Beijing as an equal partner as well as promote the “steady and sound” development of China-EU relations. He also expressed hope that Germany will “continue to play a positive role in the development of China-EU cooperation.”
The PRC wants Germany to be its ally in Europe. In the face of PR crises, such as that with Lithuania, or the halted (by the European Parliament) ratification of the CAI, Beijing knows that Germany is the most important player in the EU. This is why China wants to hold the intergovernmental talks as soon possible. On December 21, the General Secretary of the CCP Xi Jinping spoke with the German Chancellor and, similarly to the current conversation, the German side is very diplomatic in its approach to the dialogue and does not raise sensitive issues. It is interesting to note that both talks featured Germany’s willingness to sign the CAI, yet, despite the fact that this information was provided only by the Chinese side, Berlin did not deny it. This might indicate that good relations, mainly economic ones, will be maintained, and that subsequent reactions of SPD’s coalition partners to these announcements and talks are closely watched – they are noticeably critical of several aspects of cooperation with the PRC.
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