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China Gives German Economy Minister Habeck Frosty Reception

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has been confronted with clear Chinese criticism of the EU during his political talks in Beijing. Zheng Shanjie, Chairman of the powerful National Reform and Development Commission (NDRC), yesterday described the European Union plans to impose tariffs on electric cars from China as “unacceptable.”

The tariffs would harm consumers in Europe and the development of the automotive industry, criticized Zheng, who holds the rank of minister in China’s government, at the kick-off meeting of the Sino-German Climate and Transformation Dialogue. The NDRC is responsible for China’s macroeconomic development and is more influential than the Ministry of Commerce, for example. Zheng pointed out that only 12.5% of e-cars produced in China are exported. “In Germany, this proportion is much higher,” he emphasized.

Habeck met Commerce Minister Wang Wentao at midday on June 21, where Wang was given to making similarly harsh remarks: “This is essentially an attempt to suppress China’s industrial development.” He stressed that economic cooperation should “not be used as a weapon.… I hope that Germany can change the EU’s mind.” But unlike German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during his recent visit to China, Habeck avoided clear words of distance from the EU Commission’s sanctions.

The provisional EU tariffs are due to come into force on July 4. However, the EU wants to negotiate with China before the final entry into force in November. So far, however, no progress has been made. While Habeck was arriving in Beijing, it was announced on June 21 that an anticipated meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang would not take place.

Habeck was scheduled to also visit Shanghai and Hangzhou.