New Chinese premier starts 1st trip abroad to Germany and France


BERLIN – Chinese Premier Li Qiang has started a visit to Germany and France that comes as Europe seeks to balance concerns over economic dependence on China and about its stance toward Ukraine and Taiwan with a desire to engage Beijing on issues such as climate change.

Li, on his first trip abroad since taking office, was received by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday. Li and a large delegation of Chinese ministers meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and their German counterparts on Tuesday, the seventh such gathering. Top officials from both sides also will meet business representatives.

Li, a former Communist Party secretary for Shanghai, took office in March as China’s No. 2 official. It was part of a once-a-decade change of government that installed loyalists of Chinese leader Xi Jinping to enforce his vision of tighter political control over the economy and society.

The visit comes as Europe and Germany consider how best to handle an increasingly assertive China. Scholz has advocated a balanced approach, calling for “derisking” — seeking to avoid overreliance on Chinese trade and material by diversifying the country’s partners — but roundly rejecting the idea of “decoupling.”

In Germany’s first national security strategy, presented last week, the government says it views China as “a partner, competitor and systemic rival.”

It says that “elements of rivalry and competition have increased in recent years; at the same time China remains a partner without which many of the most pressing global challenges can’t be solved.”

German officials point to combating climate change as a particularly important point of potential cooperation. The official motto of Tuesday’s meeting is “Acting sustainably together.”

The German government is still drawing up a detailed separate strategy on China, and it isn’t clear when that will be ready.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wengbin said last week that China looks forward to “sending positive signals to the world to strengthen dialogue and cooperation” and joining to address challenges “so as to promote the prosperity and development of the world economy.” He said the choice of Germany as Li’s first stop “fully reflects the high importance China attaches to China-Germany relations.”

Li is following his visit to Germany, which has the EU’s biggest economy, with a stop in France, the second-biggest. While there, Li plans to attend a “Summit for a New Global Financing Pact” that is being held at French President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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