Germany’s foreign minister, Annalina Berbock, said Beijing could choose to play a major role in ending the war in Ukraine and warned against undermining Western sanctions on Russia. She and her visiting Chinese counterpart exchanged harsh words in Berlin on Tuesday but promised to try. Find common ground.
China’s foreign minister, Chen Gang, was in the German capital on the first leg of a European tour that comes amid rising tensions between Chinese and European leaders, particularly over the friendly relations between China and Russia. At a press conference after the two met, Mr. Chen and Ms. Burbock aired their differences on international politics, particularly regarding the Russian invasion.
Mrs. Berbock took advantage of Russia’s Victory Day celebration of the Soviet victory over the Nazis in World War II to say that Russia was exploiting and undermining its historical role by continuing its war in Ukraine. She said China can play a special role in resolving the conflict.
“As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China can play an important role in ending the war if it chooses to do so,” she said. China refused to condemn the Russian invasion while also promising not to aid Russia militarily.
Mrs. Berbock and Mr. Chen had a sharper exchange just a few weeks ago in Beijing, during the German Foreign Minister’s first official visit there. And in Berlin, both sides insisted their meetings highlighted their commitment to overcoming their differences.
Germany and China are scheduled to hold bilateral government talks next month on issues such as climate policy and trade. Mr. Chen said his visit was a preparation for those meetings.
At the press conference, Ms. Berbock warned that European sanctions against Russia “should not be undermined in a roundabout way”. It said the EU’s plans for an 11 round of sanctions include consideration of measures targeting so-called dual-use goods, which have civilian purposes but can also be used militarily. Some countries, including China, have continued to supply dual-use goods to Russia, such as microchips.
“This is not directed against any particular country, but is specifically about these sanctioned goods,” Ms. Burbock said. “But we expect all countries, and we also expect China to exercise appropriate influence on its companies in this sense.”
Mr. Chen responded to questions about Ukraine by saying that “simplification and sentimentality are not the answer”.
“China also did not cause this war, and it is not a party, but it is committed to peace negotiations,” he said. In recent months, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has tried to burnish his image as a global statesman, but US officials and their allies have questioned whether Mr. Xi has the ability to help broker peace in Ukraine.
Mr. Chen said China has its own legislation on dual-use goods and warned against retaliation from external sanctions. He said there are “normal exchanges” between Chinese and Russian companies that should not be disturbed, adding that China will respond “firmly and resolutely” to attempts to do so.
He also warned Berlin and other European countries not to be drawn into a new “cold war” bloc, in clear reference to calls in the United States to decouple the Chinese economy and the corresponding debate in Europe about maintaining relations but “not risking trade relations with Beijing.”
Mr. Chen’s European visit will also take him to France and Norway. The visit to Germany was a last-minute surprise, announced only a day in advance. Around the same time, Beijing requested a postponement of the visit of Germany’s finance minister, Christian Lindner, raising the question of whether the move was a reaction to a tougher stance on China by his pro-business party, the Free Democrats.