China v Germany row erupts – Beijing hits back after politicians astonishing broadside

Olaf Scholz says 'The free movement of labour is part of the EU'

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Annalena Baerbock – who is due to assume her role when Olaf Scholz’s coalition government takes over – said in a recent interview that “deafening silence is not a form of diplomacy, even if it has been seen that way by some in recent years.” The Chinese embassy in Germany asked the Green politician to look at the relationship “holistically”.

The new government in Berlin could see even more of the West turn its back on the authoritarian far East nation.

Speaking to German publication Tageszeitung, Ms Baerbock said: “As European democracies and part of a transatlantic democratic alliance, we are also in a systemic competition with an authoritarian regime like China.

“In this regard, it is important to seek strategic solidarity with democratic partners, to defend our values and interests together and to advertise these values with patience in our foreign policy.”

Asked if Germany would be more confrontational with China under her stewardship, she commented: “Dialogue is the central component of international politics.

“But that doesn’t mean that you have to gloss over things or keep quiet. A foreign policy that puts the differences in the foreground leads to an impasse just as much as one that is based on ignoring conflicts.

“That is why, for me, a value-based foreign policy is always an interplay of dialogue and rigour.

“In the long run, deafening silence is not a form of diplomacy, even if it has been seen that way by some in recent years.

“This also harbours risks, especially for Germany. After all, China is Germany’s most important trading partner.”

However, she said that “as Europeans, we shouldn’t make ourselves smaller than we are”.

Ms Baerbock continued: “China in particular has massive interests in the European market. If there is no longer any access to products that come from regions like Xinjiang, where forced labour is common practice, then this is a big problem for an exporting country like China.

“We Europeans should make much greater use of this lever of the common internal market.

“However, this only works if all 27 member states pull together and not, as in the past, Germany as the largest member state formulates its own China policy. We need a common European policy on China.”

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China has been rebuked by Western nations over its treatment of Uighur muslims in the Xinjiang province, many of whom have been put into forced labour camps.

In a statement published by the Chinese embassy in Berlin on Friday, a spokesperson for the regime responded to Ms Baerbock’s remarks: “We are ready to meet with the new German Federal Government, to develop our common interests on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, in order to put relations between China and Germany and the EU on a good and stable path.

“I hope that individual German politicians will look at China and Sino-German relations objectively and holistically, actively respect China’s core interests and main concerns, and devote their energy more to promoting practical cooperation between the two sides in various areas.

“What we need are bridge builders instead of wall builders.”

The EU has publicly distanced itself from China in recent years.

Since March 2019, it has referred to China as a “systemic rival”.

In December of last year, the EU and China announced they had reached a principle agreement on an investment deal.

However, this May the European Parliament froze the ratification process of the deal.

The same month, the European Commission announced plans to reduce economic dependence on China.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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