China holds firm with Germany as Europe worries over Russian trade sanctions

China holds firm with Germany as Europe worries over Russian sanctions

Berlin, The Gulf Observer: China’s foreign minister Qin Gang stood firm during frank but positive discussions with Germany’s counterpart Annalena Baerbock on Tuesday concerning trade sanctions on Russia.

The two ministers talked for around 45 minutes in the German capital of Berlin with the climate crisis and most notably the situation in Ukraine high on the agenda. One big issue discussed between the two parties concerned the eight Chinese companies which could face sanctions from the European Union.

The EU believes they are supplying goods to Russia that could potentially be used to create weapons against Ukraine, and Baerbock said the bloc was working on ways to prevent the circumvention of Russian sanctions as it negotiates a new package of measures.

Speaking to the media alongside Baerbock in Berlin, Qin Gang reiterated his country’s stance that they “did not supply weapons to crisis countries or crisis regions.”

“This is a law in China, and when we export the dual-use products, we also have laws and ordinances to regulate those cases,” Qin added. “There is the normal exchange and cooperation between Chinese and Russian companies and it must not be disturbed.”

Maintaining strong relationships between Germany and China is understandably a delicate subject in Berlin. For a seventh year in a row, China is its main trading partner, accounting for just under $320 billion of trade in 2022. That was up 21 percent from 2021.

However, Baerbock, speaking on behalf of the EU as well, is very concerned the sanctions already imposed on Russia cannot be averted.

“The sanctions are critical,” she said, emphasizing that they were intended to “ensure that sanctioned goods and sanctioned dual-use goods do not fall into the wrong hands.”

“They are not aimed at any specific country, but refer specifically to these expected sanctioned goods. We expect all countries, including China to influence its companies accordingly.”

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz believes the European Union should reduce risks in its relations with China.

Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Scholz said: “Rivalry and competition on China’s part have increased without a doubt.

“The EU is aware of this development and is reacting accordingly. I agree with (European Commission President) Ursula von der Leyen. We should not aim for a de-coupling, but a smart de-risking.”