German Chancellor Scholz under fire over alleged support for China project

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz faced a barrage of criticism on Thursday after a media report accused him of planning to push through Chinese investment in a Hamburg port despite grave reservations in his government.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD)
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) takes part in a debate in the Bundestag on October 20th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Chinese shipping giant Cosco is due to take a 35 percent stake in a container terminal in Hamburg, in a deal agreed last year but not yet authorised by the federal government.

German broadcasters NDR and WDR on Thursday reported that the Chancellery is planning to approve the deal despite opposition from six different ministries in Scholz’s coalition government with the Greens and the liberal FDP.

“This is neither good for our economy nor for our security,” Green party co-leader Omid Nouripour told the t-online news portal.

Michael Kruse, head of the FDP in Hamburg, called the project “dangerous”, while conservative foreign policy expert Juergen Hardt said it would enable China to gain access to “sensitive internal insights”.

“This is exactly what we should not serve up to the Chinese on a silver platter,” Hardt told Die Welt newspaper.

According to the report by NDR and WDR, the deal would effectively be approved automatically if the government does not intervene by the end of October.

Rumours have been swirling that Scholz is planning to visit China in early November.

China is a key trading partner for Germany, especially for its flagship automotive industry.

But the relationship has been soured in recent years by China’s strict zero-Covid policy, the escalation of tensions over Taiwan and concern over human rights issues in the Muslim-dominated Xinjiang region.

Many voices in Germany, including Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, have called for more caution in trade with China, warning that Europe’s biggest economy must learn from the breakdown of its relations with Russia.

But Scholz has so far not joined that chorus and even insisted at a business summit last week that Germany should maintain business relations with China.

“We do not have to decouple ourselves from some countries, we must continue doing business with individual countries — and I will say explicitly, also with China,” he said.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Germany blocks full Chinese takeover of satellite startup

Germany has blocked a complete Chinese takeover of a satellite startup on national security grounds, sources close to the matter told AFP Thursday, as Berlin takes an increasingly hard line against Beijing.

Germany blocks full Chinese takeover of satellite startup

Concerned at the heavy reliance of Europe’s top economy on China, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government has been pushing to “de-risk” and dial back dependencies.

The German tech company KLEO Connect aims to establish its own network of satellites in low Earth orbit that can provide internet to remote locations, hoping to rival Starlink.

The strategic importance of space telecommunications has been highlighted by the Ukraine war where Starlink, operated by Elon Musk-owned company SpaceX, has become a key battlefield tool for Kyiv.

According to German media reports, Shanghai Spacecom Satellite Technology (SSST) holds about 53 percent of KLEO Connect and wanted to acquire another 45 percent from German firm EightyLeo.

READ ALSO: Beijing says Germany’s new China strategy to result in ‘risks’

But Berlin blocked SSST’s move after an investment review by the economy ministry concluded that it could endanger public security.

KLEO Connect did not respond to requests for comment. The economy ministry has also declined comment.

There has been a long struggle for control of the company, at the heart of which are frequency rights – giving access to satellite spectrum – registered in Liechtenstein some years ago, Die Welt newspaper reported.

Other recent cases have highlighted growing German concerns over Chinese investments.

Last year, the government blocked the sale of two chipmakers to Chinese investors due to security concerns.

The proposed sale of a stake in Hamburg port to a Chinese firm sparked a furious political row, but Chancellor Olaf Scholz ultimately approved the acquisition of a stake, albeit at a reduced size.