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Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Monday told German business leaders that companies should take the lead on managing risk after Germany published its national security strategy, which described China as a “systemic rival.”
Li met with representatives of German companies—including Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz—in Berlin ahead of government consultations on Tuesday at the start of his first official trip overseas.
During the meeting, Li said he hopes that German companies will continue to contribute to developing bilateral ties between China and Germany while upholding the principles of “win-win cooperation.”
“Enterprises have the most direct and acute sense of risk and know how to avoid and respond to it,” Li was quoted as saying by Chinese state-run media Xinhua News Agency. “Failure to cooperate is the biggest risk, and failure to develop is the biggest insecurity.”
The fact that his first trip overseas started in Germany underscores the weight of the ties between Asia and Europe’s largest economies. China is Germany’s largest trade partner and is a key market for German companies to export goods and procure materials.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said he wants to avoid overreliance on Chinese trade and diversify Germany’s supply of key goods—which he called “derisking”—while rejecting the idea of “decoupling” from China.
The position was echoed last month by the Group of Seven leading industrial powers, most of which are heavily dependent on trade with China.
Li’s visit came after Germany published a 76-page national security strategy on June 14, which describes China as “a partner, competitor and systemic rival,” Politico reported.
According to the report, Germany said, “China is trying in various ways to reshape the existing rules-based international order, is increasingly aggressively claiming regional supremacy, and is repeatedly acting in contradiction to our interests and values.
“Regional stability and international security are increasingly being put under pressure, and human rights are being disregarded. China is deliberately using its economic power to achieve political goals,” it added.
Earlier in April, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Beijing and met with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on April 15.
Wang asked Germany to support the reunification of mainland China and Taiwan—as he claimed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had previously supported the “unification of East Germany and West Germany.”
While Baerbock did not respond directly to Wang’s remarks on Taiwan, she told a joint press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on June 14 that Germany cannot accept the use of force against Taiwan.
The CCP claims Taiwan as a Chinese province even though Taiwan is a de facto independent country with a military, democratically-elected government, and constitution. China has never ruled out the use of force to bring the island under its control.
Taiwan’s de-facto ambassador to Germany, Shieh Jhy-wey, rejected the CCP’s use of German reunification as an analogy for Taiwan, and pointed out the fallacies in Wang’s claim in a statement on Facebook.
Miles Yu, director of the China Center at the Hudson Institute and previously the chief adviser on China policy under the Trump administration, also criticized Wang’s remarks. Yu, now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said in a tweet that East and West Germany made democratic decisions to reunite, while the CCP has repeatedly threatened to use force against Taiwan.
Alex Wu, the Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.