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Lars Klingbeil in China: That's why Beijing is courting the German SPD leader


Highlights: SPD leader Lars Klingbeil met China's Premier Li Qiang on Monday. Li said the SPD must "maintain the basic tone of its China policy" China has long been angry about the China course of the Greens and FDP. But China seems to want to play safe and prepared the very big train station, writes Hovovka.. On Tuesday, the SPD leader received by China's ideologue Wang Huning, according to China's chief ideologue. The two discussed the war in Ukraine, the "German diversification strategy" and "issues of disarmament and arms control"

On Monday, SPD leader Klingbeil met China's Premier Li Qiang. © Zhang Ling/Xinhua/dpa

Lars Klingbeil visited China for two days. His host had warm words for the SPD leader, but they can also be understood as a warning.

Munich/Beijing – Things are not going well for the SPD at the moment. In the ARD Germany trend, the Social Democrats currently have a meager 18 percent; Chancellor Olaf Scholz's party is thus on a par with the AfD. The Germans also give the traffic light a bad report, with only one in five being satisfied with the work of the coalition. In this respect, the high-ranking reception that China's government has given SPD leader Lars Klingbeil these days is likely to be balm for the soul of the 45-year-old. "We hope that the SPD will play an important role in Germany and Europe," China's Premier Li Qiang told his guest from Germany on Monday, the state news agency Xinhua reported. Music to the ears of the beleaguered Social Democrats.

However, Li combined his warm words with a clear work assignment. According to the prime minister, the SPD must "maintain the basic tone of its China policy, which is characterized by rationality, dialogue and cooperation." In other words, in China, the Social Democrats are seen as a reasonable partner in a coalition that otherwise attracts attention with its rather China-critical tones. The SPD, according to the unmistakable directive from Beijing, should please ensure that the rest of the traffic light coalition partners also recognize the advantages of close cooperation with China.

Beijing has long been angry about the China course of the Greens and FDP. Green Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, for example, had to hear from her counterpart Qin Gang during her visit to China in mid-April that China does not need a "teacher from the West". Back in Germany, she declared in the Bundestag in a surprisingly undiplomatic manner that her trip to China had been "more than shocking in parts". And Finance Minister Christian Lindner even had to cancel his visit to Beijing planned for May because his counterpart Liu Kun was more interested in a meeting with state and party leader Xi Jinping than the German FDP leader.

China is angry with Greens and FDP

In general, the liberals have not suffered well in Beijing. FDP politicians have recently travelled to Taiwan several times, including Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger in March for the first time in a long time as a cabinet member. China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and always tries to prevent meetings between foreign politicians and the government in Taipei. Mostly without success: Two months before Stark-Watzinger, a ten-member FDP delegation led by defense expert Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann was in Taipei. China's Foreign Ministry then complained about "wrong signals" emanating from the lawmakers.

As one sees it in Beijing, it is now the SPD that is supposed to fix it. The Chinese Communist Party wants to expand the exchange with the Social Democrats in order to raise the partnership with Germany "to a new level" and "jointly protect cooperation in business and trade," Chinese state television reported after Klingbeil's meeting with Premier Li. China would be happy if more German companies came to China, Li said, and promised improve market access and the protection of intellectual property.

An SPD spokeswoman told the dpa news agency that the talks had been "open and constructive". They discussed the war in Ukraine, the "German diversification strategy" and "issues of disarmament and arms control as well as the human rights situation". According to the Chinese side, Klingbeil also stated "that 'decoupling' is not an option for german-Chinese relations." The fact that the Western industrialized nations could turn away from China economically is a major concern of the Chinese. There is also no talk of "decoupling" from the other traffic light parties. Rather, the tenor is that Germany must become more independent of China and also rely on other countries in the region. Keyword: risk minimization.


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China's chief ideologue receives Klingbeil

Nevertheless, China seems to want to play it safe and prepared the very big train station for Klingbeil. On Tuesday, the SPD leader was received by China's chief ideologue Wang Huning, according to dpa, they spoke much longer than planned. As a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party's Politburo, Wang is number four in the Chinese hierarchy. "Wang Huning praised the SPD's positive contribution to the development of german-China relations over the years," Xinhua reported.

The fact that the government in Beijing courted the SPD man from Germany in such a way is likely to have something to do with the German government's planned China strategy. Actually, Foreign Minister Baerbock wanted to present the document, which is to be preceded by a National Security Strategy, a long time ago. But both papers are a long time coming. Beijing now apparently hopes to be able to influence the content of the China strategy, and has identified the chancellor's party as a suitable ally for this.

SPD also finds clear words in the direction of China

However, the SPD is no longer a natural partner for China's communists, even though the chancellor's visit to Beijing last year was quite harmonious. In January, for example, Klingbeil sent a warning to Beijing in an interview with Die Zeit: "If China attacks Taiwan, our relationship with China will also change fundamentally, as is now the case with Russia," said the party leader.

And SPD Defense Minister Boris Pistorius recently clashed with his counterpart from China in a rather undiplomatic manner. Beijing must "immediately" stop poaching German fighter jet pilots, the 63-year-old said in a conversation with Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. The background to this is a Spiegel report according to which German ex-Bundeswehr soldiers are involved in training missions in China. Pistorius also addressed the recent tensions in the Indo-Pacific in Singapore, combined with a clear message to Beijing: "We need the rule of law instead of rule of the fist."

On June 20, Premier Li Qiang and other Chinese cabinet members are expected in Berlin for the german-China intergovernmental consultations. Then he will have to deal with the entire traffic light coalition. It will be interesting to see whether Li has similarly friendly words for Baerbock, Lindner and Co. as he does for SPD leader Klingbeil.

Source: merkur

All news articles on 2023-06-06

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