Germany calls China systemic rival, seeks clarity on Russia

PARIS (AP) — Germany’s foreign minister described China on Wednesday as increasingly becoming a “systemic rival” on the world stage, and urged Beijing to call out Russia as the aggressor in the war in Ukraine.

With China’s top diplomat touring Europe this week, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna called on China to use its global clout to push for peace in Ukraine.

But Baerbock and Colonna also said it was time for Europe to decrease its economic and strategic dependency on China.

Baerbock said Germany wants to work in partnership with China “everywhere it’s possible” but that it would be naive to ignore the risk of ending up in a position of reliance, including on security issues.

“One needs to recognize that we are competitors and, sadly, increasingly also systemic rivals,” she said.

Baerbock said Europe's stance toward China should be “not decoupling, but de-risking, because it’s about our security and freedom, too.”

The German government is currently adjusting its policy toward China, with some in the three-party coalition government pushing for a tougher line.

Colonna urged China to use its relationship with Russia to convince the Kremlin that “Russia is in an impasse … and to return to reason.” The French minister also warned China against delivering weapons to Russia, saying “that would push things into a totally new configuration.’’

Baerbock urged Beijing to explicitly name Russia as the aggressor in the war, noting that Moscow could end the conflict by withdrawing its troops. “If Ukraine stops defending itself, on the other hand, then Ukraine will cease to exist and with it, the charter of the United Nations,” she said.

After meeting with Baerbock in Berlin on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said his country has no intention of benefiting from the war in Ukraine and hopes for further discussions on a peace plan Beijing proposed earlier this year.

Qin is scheduled to meet with Colonna in Paris on Wednesday.

The visit comes amid diplomatic tensions around proposed new EU trade measures against countries that help the Kremlin to circumvent the bloc’s sanctions against Russia. The proposal sparked a warning from China that it would retaliate if targeted by such new EU sanctions against Russia.