Merkel seeks greater China role on climate, other global challenges

Beijing (dpa) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel in China on Saturday called climate protection a global problem and urged the Asian power to take up more responsibility for challenges facing the international community.Speaking to Chinese students at Huazhong University in the city of Wuhan, Merkel emphasized that climate change is caused by all, and that is why everyone should take care of it. “Climate protection is everyone’s responsibility,” she added. Given the size and economic power of China, the international community needs an important contribution from it, Merkel asserted. She questioned whether China remains a developing country, given the pace of its modernization, and said it will be expected to take on greater international responsibilities in the coming years.

In the face of globalization, Merkel stressed that joint rules are indispensable. Multilateral action, not protectionism, for example in trade, was needed. “After all, protectionism harms us all,” the German chancellor said. Merkel also emphasized China’s role as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, telling the students that this means China has a responsibility to work towards a peaceful solution of global flashpoints, including the Iran nuclear conflict and China’s own territorial dispute with neighbours over the South China Sea. The German chancellor also spoke critically of China’s social credit system. In Europe this was viewed as a bad idea because people had sovereignty over their private data, she told the students. The topic would remain a key ethical discussion in coming years, she said.

The social credit system currently being implemented by China is a means of systematically evaluating the economic and social credit worthiness – including social and political views – of individuals and businesses. On Friday, Merkel held talks in Beijing with Prime Minister Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping. Topics included the trade dispute between China and the United States and the unrest in Hong Kong. Li also played down the controversy over China’s social credit system, saying it would be used to uncover criminal behaviour. The chancellor expressed her hope that the trade dispute can be ended quickly because it was spreading to other parts of the global market. Merkel also campaigned for the “rights and freedoms” of the Hong Kong people during her visit to China.

Li said that Beijing supports the Hong Kong government in ending the “chaos” within the framework of the law, adding that Chinese people had the wisdom to handle the protests on the basis of law. Li said that Beijing adheres to the principle of “one country, two systems” governing Hong Kong, which as a Special Administrative Region enjoys a high degree of autonomy under a deal signed with former colonial power Britain. He did not respond directly to a question about possible Chinese military intervention in Hong Kong. Merkel is on her 12th trip to China, which wraps up Saturday. She is due to fly back to Berlin late in the day.

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