Olaf Scholz: China’s Last Hope In The West? – OpEd
By Alan Callow*
The victory of Germany’s Social Democratic Party in the elections almost marked the arrival of its leader Olaf Scholz as chancellor of Germany. What connects him to China and what will be his policy towards Beijing?
During the election campaign, Olaf Scholz delicately avoided mentioning German-Chinese relations, focusing on the pressing problems of Germany. Realizing the anti-Chinese mood of the German public and most of the political elites, the SPD leader tried not to draw attention to his rich background of cooperation with the PRC and the loud slogans that took place in the recent past.
However, in politics, the unspoken is always more important than spoken. The likely arrival of Olaf Scholz as chancellor is perceived in Beijing as a historical chance to deepen German-Chinese relations and strengthen the position of China in the European market.
After Angela Merkel’s prolonged anti-China course, Europe could see a reversal to the east. Now these are only expectations, but that is, their reasons:
Olaf Scholz – a socialist
He grew up in Hamburg, where the positions of the Social Democrats are traditionally strong. There began his party career as deputy head of the “Young Socialists” – the youth wing of the SPD. In 2011, becoming the burgomaster of Hamburg, Scholz began active foreign policy cooperation with the PRC.
Realizing the huge benefit of Hamburg from trade and economic cooperation with China, the German politician repeatedly met with senior CCP members. At one of these meetings with the State Council, Li Keqiang Olaf called Hamburg is the Chinese capital of Europe. It is difficult to argue with this because 2/3 of the cargo volume of the city port was occupied by Chinese ships.
Rich ties with the the Communist Youth League of China (CYLC)
In the period from 2015 to 2019, Olaf Scholz annually met with senior Chinese politicians – mainly from (CYLC) Former Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping, Minister of General Administration of Sport of China Liu Pang, Director of the General Administration of Civil Aviation Li Jiaxiang. However, in this regard, Scholz is not limited, in the framework of international meetings, the politician repeatedly met with the elite of the CCP in the person of the Vice Prime Minister of China Liu He, Chief of Staff of the President of China, Jing Xuexiang.
Olaf Scholz’s political ambitions
Olaf Scholz made the first statement about plans as German Chancellor: “I want to make the European Union independent, sovereign, strong.” Many experts saw in his words daring ambitions to get rid of the US financial dependance. Scholz’s statement sounds especially timely given the fact that in 2020 China replaced the United States as the main EU trade partner (trade turnover of China and Germany is $253 billion, with the United States – $173 billion.), which significantly simplifies the task to the Chancellor of Germany.
In numerous pre-election interviews, Scholz spoke of the need to replace the position of the United States as the global leader of the Western world. It is likely that Scholz has ambitions to get Germany equal status as a world economic leader with the United States. Obviously, to implement the plan, Olaf Scholz needs strong partners – the first of which may be China.
*Alan Callow, Philippine journalist covering Asia politics in general.