German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang address the media during a press conference on May 9, 2023 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)


China enraged after German minister calls Xi Jinping a ‘dictator’


German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock has labelled Chinese President Xi Jinping a “dictator”, much to the outrage of the Chinese government.

Baerbock made the remarks during a live interview with US TV broadcaster Fox News when talking about the war in Ukraine. She stressed Germany will support Ukraine “as long as it takes” but she continued: “If [Russian President Vladimir] Putin were to win this war, what sign would that be for other dictators in the world, like Xi, like the Chinese president?” she said.

China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said: “China is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposes the German side’s remarks.” She said Baerbock’s comments were “extremely absurd” and infringed on China’s political “dignity”.

“They are an open political provocation,” Mao told media, adding that China had issued a formal complaint to Germany.

It is not the first time Baerbock has been critical of China. In April this year, she said Germany should continue to maintain close ties to China but “not be naive” and avoid repeating mistakes such as its “change through trade” policy toward Russia.

When she visited China, she described elements of her trip as “more than shocking” and claimed that China has become more repressive internally and aggressive externally.

In August, she said Beijing posed a challenge to the “fundamentals of how we live together in this world”.

China is Germany’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade amounting to nearly €300 billion in 2022.

This summer, Berlin issued a new policy to compete with a more assertive Beijing, aiming for a balance between “partner, competitor and systemic rival”.

The German Government has been split on the issue, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a member of the Social Democratic Party, leaning towards a more trade-friendly approach to China, and Baerbock, a “green” politician, being an outspoken critic of the Communist country.

The relationship between both nations is complex, as the major German car manufacturers have built dozens of factories in China and sell more vehicles in China than elsewhere.

At the same time, China is dominating the European and global market for electric vehicles, while German makers lag far behind.