The Berlin Spectator
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Merkel in China: Dealing with Difficult Partners

Angela Merkel is in China with quite an entourage. A big economic delegation is following her. During the visit, the balance between signing business deals with one of the most important trade partners on the one, and demanding rights and freedom for Hong Kong on the other hand turns out to be uneven.

The Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel, invited many business leaders to join her on her trip to China. They did not have to be asked twice. For many German companies, including the auto industry, China is the business partner they are interested in most, along with the United States.

No Approximation on Hong Kong

Deals were already struck early on during the visit. Some CEOs, including Oliver Zipse of BMW and Joe Kaeser of Siemens, signed business agreements in Beijing. They were happy about those, and so was Mrs. Merkel. But things are not that easy in China, especially during the Hong Kong protests for rights and freedom.

In this regard, absolutely no approximation between the Chinese hosts and the German guests was registered. During a press conference with Merkel and China’s Premier Li Keqiang, the difficulties became apparent.

She was being asked about the situation in Hong Kong. Merkel said she had commented on the subject during the talks with Li Keqiang. The Hong Kong Agreement, which included freedom and civil rights for the residents there, was still valid. Those rights needed to be guaranteed.

Embarrassing Silence

The Chancellor added, in this situation, with escalating protests, violence needed to be prevented. Solutions could only be brought about in dialog, Merkel stated. She said she hoped there would be talks between the protesters and the head of government in Hong Kong.

That statement was obviously too much for Premier Li Keqiang. After Merkel, he was supposed to answer the question about Hong Kong. But he reportedly did not say a single word. A Chinese journalist ended the embarrassing moment by asking a conformist question about the Chinese economy.

But Li Keqiang did provide an answer to the question whether military operations could be avoided in Hong Kong. He said Beijing would support Hong Kong according to the law. China could be trusted here since it had the wisdom it needed. This is what Western observers are doubting.

Trade War Affects Others

According to German-language media reports, some Western correspondents in China were not allowed to take part in the press conference even though they had accreditations. The authorities told them there was not enough “capacity”.

Earlier, Merkel had asked the Hong Kong protesters to refrain from using violence. Also she had welcomed China’s latest retraction, according to which Beijing does not intend to change the extradition laws in Hong Kong anymore. Those plans had triggered the protests.

Regarding the trade war between China and the United States, Merkel said she hoped it would end soon. Everyone sensed the conflict had repercussions on other states too, the Chancellor stated during a conversation with Premier Li Keqiang. The talks between Washington and Beijing are scheduled to be continued in October.

On Saturday, Merkel held a speech in front of Chinese students in Wuhan. She said the world needed to be aware of the mutual responsibility everyone had. It had become evident related to climate change, which humanity had contributed to. Therefore it needed to do “everything humanly possible to curb climate change and its fatal consequences.”

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