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Scholz and Xi agree Russia would cross a line with nuclear weapons in Ukraine

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, welcomes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday.
Kay Nietfeld / Pool / AFP / Getty Images
Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, welcomes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday.

BERLIN — He had just 11 hours in Beijing, but German Chancellor Olaf Scholz used this precious time to urge Chinese leader Xi Jinping to use his influence over Russia's President Vladimir Putin to prevent further escalation in Ukraine.

During Friday's meeting, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that Xi Jinping called on the international community to "reject the threat of nuclear weapons and advocate against a nuclear war to prevent a crisis on the Eurasian continent."

After the meeting, Scholz said the two agreed that with the use of nuclear weapons, Russia would cross a line drawn by the international community.

Scholz was widely criticized in the German press, and by fellow politicians, in the run-up to his Beijing trip — which he took with CEOs of German companies whose business relies on China's market — for placing short-term business interests over long-term strategic concerns and European Union unity.

In the days leading up to Scholz's trip, he went against the advice of many advisers and cabinet ministers to approve a 24.9% stake in the port of Hamburg by Chinese state-run shipping giant COSCO, a move that 69% of Germans polled by Deutschland Trend called a "wrong move." The U.S. also voiced misgivings about the deal.

But Xi's comments during his meeting with Scholz, and those of Premier Li Keqiang in a joint press conference, show that this trip had bigger significance for Scholz than maintaining good economic relations in a time of hyperinflation and a crisis in energy security for Germany.

Visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and members of his delegation attend a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday.
/ Kay Nietfeld/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
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Kay Nietfeld / Pool / AFP / Getty Images
Visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and members of his delegation attend a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday.

Friday's one-day trip to Beijing is Scholz's first as Germany's chancellor. He is the first head of state Xi has met since the 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress delivered the Chinese leader a third term as party secretary. Scholz's visit is also the first to China by a European leader since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has strained ties between Western European countries and Beijing.

Immediately following his meeting with Xi, Scholz appeared in a press conference with Li, the outgoing Chinese premier. Scholz warned China against military intervention in Taiwan and called for the protection of human rights in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, stressing that all United Nations members have agreed to protect the rights of ethnic minorities and so calling for those protections now is not an interference in China's internal affairs.

Li stressed that the world cannot afford any more escalation in Ukraine. He also said that China remains an attractive place for investment and both China and Germany support multipolar solutions to international problems.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.
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