Chancellor Scholz's visit to China shows that Germany depends more on the People's Republic than the other way around. Beijing knows how to take advantage of this.

Chancellor Scholz and President Xi.

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz with Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 16 Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa

German policy towards China suffers from the triad of its accurate characterization of the relationship with the People's Republic as partner, competitor and systemic rival. Contradictions between the three characteristics make policy coherence difficult, which is also complicated by competing interests in the EU and within the German economy.

Before Chancellor Scholz's trip to China, his public relations team had low expectations and only stated that their goal was to stay in touch with China. This is as true as it is banal. But now there was a lot of talk between them, for example about the war in Ukraine mentioned by the Chancellor. During Scholz's last visit in November 2022, he and Xi clearly agreed that not only was Russia's use of nuclear weapons completely unacceptable, but even threats to do so.

Now Xi also spoke vaguely in favor of a peace conference in Switzerland, which Russia rejected, but he also credibly rejected Western accusations that China is using dual-use products: products that can be used both civilly and militarily. Scholz's suggestion that Russia's war threatened Europe left Xi cold. China has no interest in Russia's defeat and can live with the conflict as long as it does not escalate.

The situation was similar with the issues of climate change and hidden subsidies for Chinese exports. Xi rejected discrimination against foreign exporters and his own practices that distort competition. Rather, he smartly pointed out that China's solar panels and electric cars are helping Europe reach its climate goals. She can claim that the Chancellor did not speak in favor of the EU countermeasures as a success. Scholz's visit demonstrated once again that Germany is more dependent on China than the other way around and that Beijing knows how to take advantage of this in the long term. There was almost nothing left for Scholz.