Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said Beijing could choose to play a major role in ending the war in Ukraine and warned against undermining Western sanctions on Russia, as she and her visiting Chinese counterpart exchanged tough words in Berlin on Tuesday but promised to try to find common ground.
China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, was visiting the German capital on the first stop of a European tour that comes amid rising tensions between Chinese and European leaders, particularly over China’s friendly relationship with Russia. At a news conference after the two met, Mr. Qin and Ms. Baerbock aired their differences on international policy, particularly in relation to Russia’s invasion.
Ms. Baerbock used Russia’s Victory Day celebration of the Soviet victory against the Nazis in World War II to argue that Russia was exploiting and undermining its historic role by continuing its war in Ukraine. She said China could play a special role in resolving the conflict.
“China, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, can play a significant role in ending the war if it chooses to do so,” she said. China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion while also promising not to help Russia militarily.
Ms. Baerbock and Mr. Qin had an even sharper exchange just a few weeks earlier in Beijing, during the German foreign minister’s first official visit there. In Berlin, the two sides insisted their meetings highlighted their commitment to overcoming their differences.
Germany and China are scheduled next month to hold bilateral government talks on issues such as climate policy and trade. Mr. Qin said his visit was in preparation for those meetings.
At the news conference, Ms. Baerbock warned that European sanctions against Russia should “not be undermined in a roundabout way.” The European Union’s plans for an 11th round of sanctions, she said, included looking into measures that would target so-called dual-use goods, which have civilian purposes but could also be used militarily. Some countries, including China, have continued to supply Russia with dual-use goods, like microchips.
“This is not directed against any specific country, but relates specifically to these sanctioned goods,” Ms. Baerbock said. “But we expect all countries, and we also expect China, to exert appropriate influence on its companies in this sense.”
Mr. Qin responded to questions on Ukraine by saying that “simplification and emotionalization are not the solution.”
“China also did not cause this war, is not a party, but it is committed to peace negotiations,” he said. In recent months, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has been trying to burnish his image as a global statesman, but U.S. officials and their allies have questioned whether Mr. Xi has the ability to help mediate for peace in Ukraine
Mr. Qin said that China had its own legislation around dual-use goods and warned of retaliation against outside sanctions. He said there were “normal exchanges” between Chinese and Russian companies that should not be disturbed, adding that China would respond “strictly and severely” to attempts to do so.
He also warned Berlin and other European nations not to be dragged into a new “Cold War” bloc, in an apparent reference to calls in the United States for de-coupling from the Chinese economy and a corresponding debate in Europe over maintaining ties but “de-risking” trade relations with Beijing.
Mr. Qin’s European trip will also take him to France and Norway. The visit to Germany was a last-minute surprise, announced only a day in advance. Around the same time, Beijing requested to delay a visit from Germany’s finance minister, Christian Lindner, raising the question of whether the move was a reaction to a tougher line on China by his pro-business party, the Free Democrats.