Scholz Prepares First Official Trip to China as German Position Turns Hawkish

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(Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Olaf Scholz is making plans for his first trip to China as German leader in addition to a trip to Southeast Asia later this year, during which he’s expected to showcase a more hawkish stance toward Beijing.

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Scholz will visit Beijing in the near future and preparations are at an advanced stage, according to people familiar with the plans, who declined to be identified in line with government protocol.

The China visit would come on top of Scholz’s trip to attend the Group of 20 summit in Bali in mid-November, which will include a large business delegation with stops in Vietnam and Singapore, one of the people said.

Scholz’s Asia travel is part of an effort to reshape Germany’s strategy in the Asia-Pacific region that has the potential of increasing tension with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Germany’s government is working to hone a national strategy on China that aims to ensure less reliance on the world’s second largest economy, diversify supply chains and enhance security.

That represents a shift in tone for Europe’s largest economy, which had maintained steady trade ties under Scholz’s predecessor Angela Merkel, and brings it more in line with the US and other western allies who have raised increasing concern over China under Xi.

The European Union has taken issue with China’s human rights record in Hong Kong and Xinjiang as well as its actions on Taiwan and the South China Sea.

French President Emmanuel Macron has also said he’s considering a trip by year-end. German and French government spokespeople declined to comment.

Scholz used his speech at the United Nations this week to denounce China’s human rights record, calling on Beijing to implement the recommendations of a recent report on the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang by the former High Commissioner for Human Rights, which accused China of “serious” rights abuses there. Scholz will bring that message to Beijing, the person said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said during a regular press briefing in Beijing Wednesday that he had no information to offer on either of the visits. Earlier this summer, China dismissed reports of a planned visit to China by several European leaders, including those from Germany and France as “fake news.”

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