Beijing and Berlin set to forge closer ties amid ‘Silk Road’ project

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz laughs when answering question

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Beijing and Berlin look set to forge closer ties amid a “new Silk Road” shipping project, a report has claimed. Hamburg Port is looking to create the so-called “Silk Road” shipping projects in Greece, Poland and other parts of Europe with its Chinese state-owned partner. According to the Times, a leaked German Government document revealed that the project’s ultimate goal is to extend Sino-European trade routes, including in Duisburg.

It has also been suggested that a number of ports in France, which are part-owned by a separate Chinese shipping company called CMP, could be involved in the project.

Local broadcasters have quoted the internal report as saying: “China is attempting to achieve a permanent presence at strategic points in global maritime infrastructure.”

The report comes just two months after Chancellor Olaf Scholz approved the sale of a quarter stake in one of the port’s terminals to the Chinese conglomerate Cosco.

The Chancellor overruled objections from six of his Cabinet colleagues.

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Ministers who opposed the move have suggested it would strengthen Beijing’s influence over critical infrastructure in Germany.

Cosco has enormous influence in the European Union.

It owns Greece’s largest port Piraeus near Athens and portions of Bilbao and Zeebrugge’s port terminals.

However, Berlin remains far from united about how to proceed with Sino-German relations.

A draft strategy on China led by the Green-backed Foreign Ministry is expected to propose putting greater emphasis on criticising Beijing’s human rights abuses, according to the Times.

However, Chancellor Scholz recently wrote that “dialogue and cooperation must extend beyond the democratic comfort zone”.

In a sign of Scholz’s ambiguity on China, the Chancellor warned Beijing against asserting any “claims to hegemony” but added that he saw no case for “curbing co-operation”.

He added: “Many assume we are on the brink of an era of bipolarity in the international order.

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“They see the dawn of a new cold war approaching, one that will pit the United States against China.

“I do not subscribe to this view … We must also avoid the temptation to once again divide the world into blocs.”

In a further sign of confusion over China, Berlin also blocked two Chinese takeover bids for German semiconductor factories after concluding that they would “endanger Germany’s public order and security”.

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