Heiko Maas was under pressure from human rights groups to confront his Chinese counterpart.
BERLIN — German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met his Chinese counterpart on Tuesday, speaking softly and wielding what by the end of the encounter didn’t look like much of a stick.
“It was important for me today to convey that we in Europe wish to have a good relationship with China,” said Maas of what he described as his third “intensive exchange” with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi this year.
The meeting promised to be tricky for Maas, a Social Democrat who has struggled to find his footing as foreign minister, even before Wang threatened the speaker of the Czech senate this week: Wang, who has been on a two-week tour of Europe, said the Czech politician, Miloš Vystrčil, would “pay a high price” for making a trip to Taiwan, the island democracy which China insists belongs to its territories.
Maas said that Europe would not countenance threats, “no matter what direction” they come from, an apparent reference to both China and the U.S.
The German-Chinese relationship has been strained of late by the crackdown in Hong Kong, the violent repression of the ethnic Uighur minority as well as China’s lack of transparency on the origins of COVID-19.
Maas, who had been under pressure from the opposition and human rights groups to confront Wang, said he raised such issues and planned to restart a “human rights dialogue” with China next week. He stressed that he called the Czech foreign minister Monday to express his solidarity, adding in Wang’s direction: “We treat our international partners with respect and expect the same.”
But Maas also made clear Germany had no intention of following the hard line on China favored by the U.S., reaffirming that economic considerations would continue to guide the Sino-German relationship.
Asked whether Germany should ban Chinese telecom equipment supplier Huawei from the country’s next-generation 5G network, for example, Maas punted, reiterating that the government was in the final stages of formulating a new security law that will provide a framework for deciding such cases.
Most observers think an outright ban is unlikely, not because Berlin underestimates the security threat, but because of the damage such a step would inflict.
“A decoupling of the relationship between the EU and China is not in our interest,” Maas said. “It’s in no one’s interest.”
Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/heiko-maas-germany-china-meeting/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication