Xi Jinping has told Olaf Scholz that China and Germany should enhance co-operation amid a chaotic international landscape, as the Chinese leader reasserts himself on the global stage.
The pair met on Friday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing against a backdrop of fraying ties between the west and China. The tension has been exacerbated by Xi’s close relationship with Vladimir Putin and refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Scholz is the first western leader to meet Xi since the Chinese president cemented control of the Communist party and embarked on an unprecedented third term in power last month.
In a statement carried by Chinese state media, Xi said Scholz’s visit would enhance trust between Beijing and Berlin and set the scene for more co-operation. “As influential powers, China and Germany should work together in times of change and chaos,” Xi said.
Xi is emerging from a long absence in global diplomacy. In September, he travelled to central Asia in his first overseas trip since the pandemic started in early 2020. However, his administration has come under increasing criticism over its stance on Ukraine, crackdowns in the region of Xinjiang and in Hong Kong and military aggression towards Taiwan.
Analysts say the Chinese leader will focus on efforts to strengthen bilateral ties, especially with countries perceived to be less aligned with the US, but he is also expected to attend this month’s G20 summit in Bali, where a meeting with US president Joe Biden is possible.
Scholz’s government has promised a tougher approach towards Beijing. He also faces deep divisions in Berlin on the risks of decoupling from its reliance on the world’s second-biggest economy.
Shi Zhiqin, a Europe-China expert at Tsinghua University, said a face-to-face meeting was a good start to resuming diplomatic communication.
“Even inside Germany, there are different voices on his visit to China. But Germany is a very practical country,” Shi added. “China and Germany’s trade volume is large. His visit to China is a response to the voice for decoupling with China in the EU.”
Scholz, who is travelling with a group of German business leaders, is scheduled to brief media later on Friday.
Additional reporting by Xinning Liu and Maiqi Ding in Beijing and William Langley in Hong Kong