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Olaf Scholz, China’s Last Hope in the West?
With the victory of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, Olaf Scholz will likely take office as the next chancellor of Germany, replacing Angela Merkel. What connects him to China and what will his policy towards China be?
During the election campaign, Olaf Scholz delicately avoided mention of German-Chinese relations, instead, he focused on more pressing problems facing Germany. Realizing the anti-Chinese mood of the German public and most of the political elites, Scholz tried to not draw attention to his rich background of dealings with China.
However, in politics, the unspoken is always more important than what is said out loud. The likely arrival of Olaf Scholz as chancellor is perceived in Beijing as a historical chance to deepen German-Chinese relations and strengthen China’s position in the European market.
After Angela Merkel’s prolonged anti-China course, Europe could see a reversal to the east. There are several reasons this could come about.
Olaf Scholz is a socialist
Scholz grew up in Hamburg, where the positions of the Social Democrats are traditionally strong. He began his career there as deputy head of the Young Socialists – the youth wing of the SPD. In 2011, he became the mayor of Hamburg, and he began active foreign policy cooperation with China.
Realizing the huge benefit to Hamburg from trade and economic cooperation with China, Scholz repeatedly met with senior CCP members. At one of these meetings with Li Keqiang, a senior Chinese official, Scholz called Hamburg the Chinese capital of Europe. It is difficult to argue with this since 2/3 of the cargo volume in Hamburg’s port was occupied by Chinese ships.
Rich ties with Chinese officials
From 2015 to 2019, Olaf Scholz routinely held meetings with senior Chinese officials – including Cheng Guoping, the former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Liu Pang, former head of the agency in charge of sports, and Li Jiaxiang, the former head of the Chinese civil aviation authority. However, in this regard, Scholz is not limited in the framework of international meetings, Scholz repeatedly met with other elite members of the CCP such as Liu He, a senior politician, and Jing Xuexiang, a senior party official.
Olaf Scholz’s political ambitions
Olaf Scholz made his first statement about his plans should he become chancellor: “I want to make the European Union independent, sovereign, and strong.” Many experts saw in his words a daring ambition to gain some independence from the United States. Scholz’s statement sounds especially timely given the fact that in 2020, China replaced the United States as the European Union’s main trading partner, which would significantly simplify his job.
In numerous pre-election interviews, Scholz spoke of the need to replace the United States as the global leader of the Western world. It is likely that Scholz has ambitions to bring Germany to equal status to the United States as a global leader. Obviously, to implement this plan, Olaf Scholz needs a strong partner – and China may be it.