No country visits China’s head of state Xi Jinping as often as Russia

No country visits China’s head of state Xi Jinping as often as Russia

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 This would have put Hong Kongers and foreigners in China’s crosshairs. It would not only have undermined freedom in Hong Kong, but also its status as an international trading center. The mass protests prevented this from happening – and “showed the spirit and dignity of the Hong Kong people,” as activist Wong said.

The Chancellor is received with military honors in China. But the political environment surrounding the Chancellor’s visit is difficult – the trade dispute and the unrest in Hong Kong are holding back the global economy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed her hope that the trade war between the USA and China will be settled soon. At the start of her three-day visit to China on Friday in Beijing, Merkel said in a conversation with Prime Minister Li Keqiang in the Great Hall of the People that everyone noticed that the trade conflict was also affecting other countries.

The Chancellor also called for an investment protection agreement between China and the European Union to be concluded soon. Merkel emphasized that German-Chinese relations were on a solid foundation. But there are also conflicts. The CDU politician said at the beginning of the conversation that both sides had already made good progress in dealing with them.

Merkel had previously been received with military honors. Chairs were provided at the ceremony so that Merkel could largely sit with Premier Li Keqiang. Due to several tremors on similar occasions, on which she had to stand still for long periods, she had recently attended several military receptions while sitting. Li Keqiang, however, stood up at the Chinese national anthem.

Angela Merkel (CDU, l) and Li Keqiang, Prime Minister of China: Merkel is on a two-day visit to the People’s Republic of China. (Source: Michael Kappeler / dpa)

Trade war and Hong Kong crisis overshadow visit

Difficult talks await Merkel – including at the planned meal with China’s head of state and party, Xi Jinping, on Friday evening. Because your three-day visit to China is overshadowed not only by the trade war that has been going on for more than a year, but also by the unrest in Hong Kong. The opposition and human rights groups asked the Chancellor in advance to take a clear position on what is going on in the Chinese Special Administrative Region during her trip.

Hong Kong protest leaders appealed to the Chancellor to stand up for the demonstrators in Beijing and to moderate the communist leadership. For months there have been repeated protests in Hong Kong, which often end with clashes between a small part of the demonstrators and the police. Many of the seven million people in the metropolis fear the increasing influence of the Chinese government and a curtailment of their freedoms.

Before Merkel’s visit, the German government again appealed to all parties to resolve the conflict through dialogue and non-violently – on the basis of the laws and freedoms that apply to Hong Kong and the relationship between China and the Special Administrative Region.

Criticism of China from the government

Criticism of China’s government came from the federal government’s human rights commissioner, Bärbel Kofler (SPD). “With regard to civil and political rights, the situation in China has worsened significantly in recent years,” she told the editorial network Germany (RND). Freedom of expression will be further restricted. She is also very concerned about dealing with minorities such as Tibetans, Uyghurs and other Muslims.

Kofler also pointed out the so-called social point system that is currently being introduced in China. The behavior of all citizens recorded by comprehensive monitoring is evaluated: There are plus points for desired behavior, points are deducted for undesired behavior – for example for driving over a red traffic light, but also for actions critical of the government.

China wanted to exclude German correspondents

The visit began with resentment over the admission of Beijing-based German journalists. The Chinese side initially refused to allow all correspondents to participate in Merkel and Li Keqiang’s press meeting in the Great Hall of the People. For “capacity reasons”, only the German journalists who were traveling with them could participate, the Chinese said.

After protests, the Chinese side finally allowed four local correspondents to attend. But only one question was allowed. The delegation speculated whether overly critical questions should be avoided – about Hong Kong or the fate of the Muslim Uyghur minority, hundreds of thousands of whom have been sent to re-education camps.

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On her trip, Merkel will also take part in the meeting of the Advisory Committee of the Sino-German Economy and the closing meeting of the Sino-German Dialogue Forum. The Chancellor will be accompanied by a large business delegation and will also visit companies in Beijing and at her second stop in Wuhan on Saturday. In Wuhan, she wants to speak to students at the Huazhong University there. Merkel was last in China in May of last year.

No country visits China’s head of state Xi Jinping as often as Russia. He and Kremlin chief Putin speak of unity in the resistance against the USA. But how close are the Chinese dragon and the Russian bear really?

With his friend Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin is in his element these days: The two of them visit the pandas that have just been housed in the Moscow Zoo, they drive in Russia’s newly developed luxury car Aurus. Russia’s president has been able to rely on China’s head of state and party since the West penned him like a naughty schoolboy five years ago because of the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. Both speak of an “unprecedented friendship”.

When Putin and Xi Jinping visit the zoo, visitors and photographers gather around the presidents. (Source: Reuters)

With the visit of the Chinese delegation with 1,000 participants, the Kremlin chief can hide the fact that this time he is not invited to commemorate the World War on the 75th anniversary of the troop landing in Normandy. Russia sees it as an affront anyway. Moscow’s Foreign Ministry warns that the contribution of the other allies should not be overstated. Without the “titanic strength” of the Soviet Union, victory over Hitler would not have been possible at that time. At the time of the celebrations in France, Putin wanted to receive state guests of the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg.

“Economic Terrorism”

During the state visit, Putin and Xi will also celebrate the 70th anniversary of their countries’ diplomatic relations. From the Chinese perspective, the relationship between Beijing and Moscow “has never been better,” as Russia researcher Jiang Yi says. In the trade war with the USA, too, Russia is clearly on the side of China. China’s Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhui made it clear that these were special times and that both countries were standing side by side facing “the challenges from outside”.

The Moscow zoo had previously received a pair of giant pandas from China. (Source: Reuters)

“We firmly oppose the arbitrary use of tariff clubs or protectionism,” said Zhang Hanhui. “Deliberately provoking trade disputes is economic terrorism and economic supremacy.” Putin and Xi made similar statements at their meeting.

It is a geopolitical friendship between men that connects the two. They have met 28 times since 2013 – most recently six weeks ago in Beijing, next in three weeks at the summit of the great economic powers (G20) in Osaka, Japan. The similarities predominate: Both see the USA as their main adversary, want to expand their global influence, share an apparently insatiable hunger for power and maintain similar autocratic systems at home.

Risk of regional conflicts

“China and Russia are more in line than at any point since the mid-1950s,” warned US intelligence coordinator Dan Coats in his annual report on dangers in the world. The relationship is likely to grow even stronger, while their interests and perceived threats overlap – especially towards the US and its unilateralism or Western values ​​such as democracy and human rights. “As China and Russia expand their influence in the world, they are undermining established security norms and increasing the risk of regional conflict, particularly in the Middle East and East Asia.”

There is already much speculation about a “strategic alliance” or a “Beijing-Moscow axis”. Such a coalition could be as challenging as the Soviet-Chinese bloc once did – this time only under Chinese leadership. But the two countries don’t always pull together, which they just don’t openly do. China has not recognized the Russian annexation of Crimea. And Russia does not support China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea either. In addition, Russia continues to supply arms to China’s rivals India and Vietnam.

Russia and China recently strengthened their relations due to the conflicts with the USA. (Source: Reuters)

“Historically there have been conflicts of interest and distrust between the two countries,” admits Russia researcher Jiang Yi. Neither wanted a formal alliance, but rather promote economic cooperation and joint projects. During Xi Jinping’s visit, two joint declarations on bilateral relations and global strategic stability were signed – as well as around 30 cooperation agreements in trade, investment and energy. At the end of the year, the first gas will flow through the Sila Siberian pipeline, the power of Siberia, to China, as reported by Russian state television on the occasion of the visit.

China’s Silk Road Project

Nonetheless, apart from the symbolic appearances by Xi and Putin, a lot is only wishful thinking on paper, says Ivan Sujenko from the Moscow center of the US think tank Carnegie. Many infrastructure projects – such as bridges in the Armur region on the border between China and Russia – have been a long time coming. Today everyone prefers to talk about China’s Silk Road project. “The current level of cooperation between the two countries does not correspond at all to the high expectations that the friendship between the two leaders promises.” 

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 Nevertheless, trade increased by 24 percent in 2018 to now 108 billion US dollars. Russia is clearly the “junior partner” because China’s economy is eight times bigger. While Russia mainly supplies raw materials such as energy or wood or armaments, China sells machines, cars, electrical appliances and other consumer products. Only 1.9 percent of China’s exports go to Russia, the other way round it is 15 percent. China has not only been Russia’s largest trading partner since 2010. The state of the relationship can also be read off from the tourism figures. Around 1.7 million Chinese tourists visited Russia last year – there were no more visitors from any other country.

Beijing (AP) – Against the background of ongoing protests, China’s President Xi Jinping has stood behind Hong Kong’s Prime Minister Carrie Lam.

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“The central government has great confidence in you and is fully convinced of your work and your management team in Hong Kong,” said Xi Jinping at a surprising meeting with Lam in Shanghai, according to the state news agency Xinhua. It was the first official meeting with Lam since the protests began in Hong Kong.

“Curbing the violence and stopping the chaos in accordance with the law remains the most important task facing Hong Kong,” said the Chinese president.

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After months of demonstrations, China’s communist leadership indicated last week that it would tighten its grip.