On April 28, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held online talks.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese (Communist) Premier Li Keqiang held online talks today (April 28), followed by political consultations between the two ministers in corresponding areas. Economic problems and growing political tensions in Germany have complicated relations between the two countries.
This is the sixth meeting between the German and Chinese governments. Since 2011, the Chinese and German governments have held major consultation meetings every two years. Due to the Communist virus (Wuhan pneumonia) outbreak, the talks were held online by video and opened with a direct dialogue between Merkel and Li Keqiang.
Prior to the government dialogue, Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, warned the German government not to be overconfident in its dealings with the Chinese Communist Party. “The Chinese Communist Party is pursuing a policy of strategic soft power in Germany and the rest of the world, doing many things very subtly,” he said.
“It steps one foot in the door, exerts influence and creates dependency.” He said few people in Germany are paying attention to the process, “I think it’s naive, and I suggest that it needs to be countered with realism.”
Jensen, president of the German Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, called on the German government to clearly raise the issue of human rights violations by the Chinese Communist Party and its recent sanctions actions against German and European critics.
According to a summary by the German News Agency, the following controversial topics currently exist in German-Chinese bilateral relations.
“More than thirty years after June 4, the European Union imposed sanctions against the Chinese Communist Party for human rights violations for the first time in March of this year. The punitive measures are aimed at the Chinese officials responsible for the persecution of the Uighurs. In response, Beijing imposed broader sanctions on parliamentarians and academics in Germany and other EU countries, as well as the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin, prompting condemnation from the West.
Persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang
According to human rights activists, hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs have been imprisoned in labor camps in Xinjiang, which the Chinese Communist Party calls a training base. Many Uyghurs have been sentenced to prison. Uighurs have described the persecution as “genocide. The German parliament is also following and discussing this issue.
Sino-European Investment Agreement
Late last year, China and the European Union reached an agreement in principle on an investment treaty that is being promoted under German leadership. Its aim is to improve access to the Chinese market for EU companies. The Chinese Communist Party vaguely promised to “keep working” on the ratification of two conventions against forced labor. The agreement still needs to be ratified by the European Parliament, which intends to protest against Chinese sanctions by not ratifying the agreement.
Restricting Huawei’s Participation in 5G
The German parliament passed a new IT security law last week that makes it more difficult for telecom giant Huawei to participate in the construction of 5G mobile networks. The backdrop is the German government’s increased concern about espionage sabotage from abroad.
Hong Kong’s autonomy undermined
Beijing is using the National Security Law to restrict Hong Kong’s political freedoms, nominally against so-called subversive, separatist, terrorist or conspiratorial activities. Britain and other Western countries see this as a violation of the internationally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration signed by China in 1997, which guarantees autonomy for Hong Kong after its return to China.
Difficulties in entering China
German companies complain about the current difficulties in entering China, the mandatory two-week quarantine upon entry and the poor conditions in the hotels where they are arranged to stay. It is almost impossible for Germany to send employees to China for installation, repair or maintenance of equipment. According to the survey, these obstacles are the biggest problems currently faced by German companies operating in China.
Deteriorating working conditions for journalists in China
The German government is concerned about the deteriorating working conditions of the country’s journalists in China. Both countries are arguing over the admission of new journalists. In addition, it is not easy for German journalists in China to leave the country, and re-entry becomes a big problem once they have left the country due to the epidemic. As a result, the number of German journalists in China is decreasing.
South China Sea Dispute
The Chinese Communist Party claims to own most of the resource-rich waters of the South China Sea, through which important shipping lanes pass. The International Court of Arbitration in The Hague rejected these claims back in 2016. However, Beijing has ignored that ruling and has stationed troops there anyway. Last month, German government officials said a German patrol ship will head to Asia in August, and the return trip will be the first German warship to cross the South China Sea since 2002.