The Chinese foreign minister, Qin Gang, has cautioned Berlin hosts that Europe’s real risk does not come from China but another nation waging a “new cold war,” imposing unilateral sanctions and transferring its domestic inflationary and fiscal crisis with spillover effects. Qin did not name the United States but accused the country in question of fomenting ideological confrontation and engaging in camp confrontation when asked about the European Union’s “de-risking” strategy on Tuesday.
Qin stated that the risks posed by the “new cold war” should be taken seriously, warning that it would damage China’s and Europe’s interests. He emphasized that the unnamed nation had abused the monopoly status of its currency and transferred its domestic inflationary and fiscal crisis with severe spillover effects. The Chinese foreign minister made these comments at a joint press conference with German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock following his second meeting with her in the past month.
The de-risking strategy was introduced in March by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who emphasized that it was “neither viable – nor in Europe’s interest – to decouple from China.” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has also repeatedly rejected decoupling. Qin backed his remarks with a report released earlier this month by the Austrian Institute of Economic Research and the Foundation for Family Businesses, estimating a 2% drop in Germany’s GDP if it decouples from China.
Qin said he appreciated the stance of Berlin and Brussels but raised Beijing’s concerns that the strategy could become a “de-sinicization” of the continent that would cut opportunities, cooperation, stability, and development. He warned that if the “new cold war” is fought, Europe’s interests will also be sacrificed, which he said was the real risk to be concerned about.
Qin was in Berlin at the start of a three-nation trip that ends on Friday and includes visits to Paris and Oslo. He arrived just as China postponed a meeting between the Chinese and German finance ministers at short notice. The cancellation was widely speculated to be related to a landmark visit to Taipei in March by Germany’s education minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger. Beijing protested the trip, describing it as “vile.”
During his visit to Berlin, Qin also met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who called for dialogue between China and the West. Steinmeier stated that he believed “it is necessary to have a frank and open exchange with China, both on areas of common interest and on those where we disagree.”
The Chinese foreign minister echoed Steinmeier’s comments, saying that China is willing to engage in dialogue and cooperation with the West on the basis of mutual respect, equality, and non-interference. He also hoped that Germany and other European countries would continue pursuing an independent foreign policy without being influenced by external forces.
In Paris, Qin met with French President Emmanuel Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. During the meetings, the French side expressed concerns about human rights in China and called for constructive dialogue on the issue. Qin responded by saying that China is willing to have a dialogue on human rights, but it must be based on mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
The Chinese foreign minister’s visit to Europe comes during heightened tensions between China and the West over issues such as trade, human rights, and Taiwan. The Biden administration has adopted a tough stance towards China, calling it a “strategic competitor” and imposing sanctions on Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. In response, China has accused the United States of interfering in its internal affairs and undermining its sovereignty.
During his visit to Berlin, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang referred to Taiwan in his address to the media. Still, it denied any connection between the sudden postponement of the meeting between Chinese and German finance ministers and Germany’s education minister’s visit to Taiwan. Qin stated that the postponement was due to “an urgent schedule change” by the Chinese foreign minister and “should not be over-interpreted.” He emphasized that whoever hopes for stability in the Taiwan Strait and is committed to upholding international order should abide by the one-China policy and oppose any acts of independence in Taiwan.
Qin’s visit to Berlin also saw him discuss the war in Ukraine with his German counterpart. He urged Berlin to take the lead in constructing a balanced, effective, and sustainable European security framework to help bring peace to Ukraine. Qin also strongly opposed possible sanctions on eight Chinese companies over their dealings with Russia, stating that they were normal exchanges and cooperation between Chinese and Russian companies. He warned that China would take the necessary response to firmly protect the legitimate interests of Chinese companies if punitive measures such as sanctions were imposed.
The Chinese foreign minister also reasserted that Chinese law forbids the delivery of weapons to regions in conflict and that regulations govern the export of dual-use goods, which can be used for both civilian and military purposes. He emphasized China’s commitment to international laws and regulations and its stance on maintaining peace and stability worldwide.
Qin’s visit to Europe comes amid heightened tensions between China and the West over various issues, including human rights, trade, and Taiwan. The Biden administration has taken a tough stance towards China, labeling it a “strategic competitor” and imposing sanctions on Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. In response, China has accused the United States of interfering in its internal affairs and undermining its sovereignty.
As China’s influence on the global stage continues to grow, Europe needs to maintain an independent foreign policy that is not influenced by external forces. While cooperation and dialogue with China are crucial, it is equally important for Europe to uphold international laws and regulations and defend its own interests. As such, it remains to be seen how Europe will navigate its relationship with China in the coming years and whether it will be able to strike a balance between cooperation and competition.