Xi opposes nuclear weapons in Ukraine, reason enough to visit China

By Andreas Rinke

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, heavily criticized for his trip to Beijing this week, said on Saturday his joint statement with Chinese President Xi Jinping opposing the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine was a reason sufficient to justify this visit.

Scholz’s comments came a day after he visited the world’s second-largest economy alongside CEOs of German companies, the first by a G7 leader since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because the Chinese government, the president and I were able to declare that no nuclear weapons should be used in this war, that alone made the whole trip worth it,” Scholz said at a party event. social democrat.

Xi, who won a third term two weeks ago, agreed that the two leaders “jointly oppose the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons” on Ukraine, but disagreed. refrained from criticizing Russia or calling on Moscow to withdraw its troops.

Scholz, who has been criticized for appearing to pursue a strategy that overly exposes the German economy to China, its biggest trading partner, said diversification was key to limiting possible repercussions if the relationship deteriorates.

“We have a clear plan and we are following it. And that means diversifying for all the countries we trade with, especially, of course, a country that is so big and has such a large share of the global economy,” Scholz said. said.

“We will continue economic exchanges with China… But it is also clear, we will position ourselves to be able to face a situation at any time when there are difficulties – whether in 10 years or in 30 year.”

SCHOLZ TO GERMAN CEOS: “DIVERSIFY NOW”

During his trip, Scholz told business leaders, including the CEOs of Deutsche Bank, Volkswagen, BASF, Siemens, BMW, Merck and BioNTech, not to put diversification on the back burner, a source said. delegation.

At the closed meeting, he said it would take about 10 to 15 years to fully eliminate the risks.

A separate government source said the impression was that the message had got through and that companies were diversifying while developing their relationship with China.

This is particularly important for German automakers active in China, the world’s biggest market, including Volkswagen, which has been repeatedly criticized for its factory in the Xinjiang region over reports of human rights abuses. man in this country.

Battery materials, which are needed for the packs that power electric vehicles, are also a focus. German automakers depend on China for lithium, nickel and cobalt, while Europe has launched programs to build its own supply but is not there yet.

Germany’s trade relationship with China has come under greater scrutiny since February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, leading to the end of a decade-long energy relationship with Moscow. and caused many companies to abandon their local operations.

This has fueled concerns about the potential consequences for the German economy if China invades Taiwan.

“Start now, don’t put it on the back burner. Do it now,” Scholz said at a party in comments that appeared to be aimed at business leaders about diversification.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Additional reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Jason Neely)

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