Xi phones Merkel to express hope for cooperation

By Andreas Landwehr, dpa

Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the phone on Wednesday, expressing hope for more cooperation with Germany and the European Union.

Against the backdrop of rising tensions with Europe, Xi told Merkel there were “new possibilities and different challenges” in the relationship with the EU, according to a report by state news agency Xinhua.

The key was to take a decisive course of action based on a strategic perspective and mutual respect, “excluding interference,” Xi said according to the report.

The conversation comes two weeks after the EU imposed sanctions on Beijing over human rights violations for the first time in more than three decades, due to the persecution of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

Beijing slammed the sanctions as “interference in internal matters” and retaliated with counter-sanctions on German and other European politicians, experts and institutions.

The Xinhua report did not mention whether Merkel and Xi spoke about that dispute.

“China’s development is an opportunity for the European Union and we hope that the EU will make a correct decision independently and really achieve its strategic autonomy,” Xi said according to the report, likely referring to the influence of the United States on EU policy towards China.

Cooperation with Germany should bring more global stability, Xi said. He also referred to collaboration regarding Covid-19 vaccines and said he opposed “vaccine nationalism.”

The deputy spokesperson of the German government, Ulrike Demmer, confirmed that Merkel emphasized the importance of dialogue with China regarding their relations, including on topics where there was difference in opinions.

Demmer confirmed both heads of state discussed vaccine production and supply, economic cooperation, environmental protection and upcoming German-Chinese government talks for more intense bilateral endeavours.

Xinhua also reported that the German side was preparing a new round of German-Chinese consultation talks, which are to take place at the end of April, though the time has not been confirmed yet.

According to the report, Merkel said Germany also wanted to cooperate with China to take up the exchange of workforces “as soon as possible,” as strict entry restrictions due to the coronavirus have hampered business with China.

On Wednesday, German business representatives said the Chinese government had tightened entry rules at the beginning of the year, making it near impossible to send employees to China, for instance for installing machines or maintenance.

According to the chamber of foreign commerce (AHK), it was difficult to maintain business relations, participate in conventions and continue negotiations, which had led to a collapse in sales and delays in investments.

Generally, people entering China on business have to quarantine for two weeks, though there were at times additional quarantine rules according to the region, according to the German engineering association VDMA.

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