Chinese Foreign Minister Meets with Officials in Germany, France, Norway on Europe Tour

Chinese Foreign Minister Meets with Officials in Germany, France, Norway on Europe Tour
Foreign Minister Qin Gang

The Lede: The Chinese Foreign Minister has completed his visit to Europe where he promoted bilateral ties and faced criticism.

What We Know:

  • Between May 8 and 12, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang visited the capitals of Germany, France, and Norway for his first solo trip to Europe since taking his current role.
  • German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock offered stiff criticism for China’s ambiguity in the war in Ukraine. Baerock also characterized the China-Germany relationship as a systemic rivalry despite the desire to work in partnership. She warned against the risk of falling into a position of reliance. Qin warned against the German and European ‘de-risking’ trend as well as EU-proposed sanctions on Chinese companies allegedly supporting Russia.
  • French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna called on China to help push for peace in Ukraine. The two foreign ministers discussed promoting more cooperation in supply chains and increased high-level contact.
  • Qin met first with Norwegian business leaders in Oslo and then met with Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt, and members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense of the Norwegian Parliament. While the two sides spoke about cooperation on climate and environmental issues, the topic of human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong was raised by Norwegian officials.
  • This trip coincided with a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Sweden where they discussed the future of EU-China relations and the bloc’s position on China’s geopolitical challenges. According to an internal document drafted by the European External Action Service, the EU’s position is to consider China more of a competitor while not stepping too far away from ties.

The Background:

Germany has been critical of China on its periphery-related issues, especially with respect to the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, the political crackdowns in Hong Kong, and saber-rattling toward Taiwan. The German government’s hard position against Russia puts it in an absolutist stance toward China’s role as a mediator that maintains friendly relations with Moscow. The two countries will be anticipating the upcoming seventh round of China-Germany inter-governmental consultations.

France’s relationship with China has been warming significantly recently with French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to China. In addition to bringing leaders of French industry to seek business opportunities in China, Macron also signed a joint statement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to work toward deeper exchanges. After his trip, Macron made comments urging caution among European countries to not blindly follow in the rivalry between Beijing and Washington and avoid being dragged into a conflict between the superpowers.

Norway is not a European Union member state and does not share the EU’s common trade policy, though it participates in the European Economic Area. It also operates under its own foreign and security policy. Norway and China ceased economic and diplomatic interactions after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese pro-democracy dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010. Relations normalized and trade talks resumed in late 2016 and two countries have been working on a free-trade agreement for almost two decades.

Likely Outcomes:

  • While the German political establishment favors a certain distance from China with respect to economic, trade, and security topics, German companies have seemingly shrugged off this ‘derisking’ rhetoric and increased investment in the country. The German public and private sectors will have to reconcile this contradiction while following EU-level positions on China moving forward. Germany will also have to seriously consider cooperation with China in the planned transition to renewable energies and climate issues as Norway has in its key discussion topics with Qin.
  • France holds a somewhat less adverse position toward China compared to Germany, but would also have to consider EU-level positions as they develop. On Ukraine, the French political leadership may be more open to playing a role in the China-brokered negotiations, especially as Macron maintained lines of communication with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the first year of the war.
  • Of the three countries Qin visited on this trip, Norway holds the most flexibility in terms of bilateral foreign and economic relations. Mutually beneficial trade in less sensitive industries such as salmon or cooperation on environmental and climate issues will likely be the first steps in testing the waters for China-Norway ties. However, Norway will likely stand firmly with Western norms on security and human rights concerns related to China while keeping an eye on the developments in Beijing’s negotiation plans for Ukraine.
  • China would be wise to play the varying European positions against one another to find room for favorable relations. Beijing will play up the rhetoric of cooperation where it is well-received and threaten economic pain where resistance appears. This will be an attempt to undermine the unity of the EU and the Western nations in general in their efforts to formulate a comprehensive China policy.


“If you ‘de-China’ in the name of ‘de-risking,’ you are also reducing opportunity, cooperation, stability and development. These are the real risks that need to be taken seriously. If this ‘new Cold War’ is fought, not only the interests of China will be harmed, but Europe’s interests will also be sacrificed.” – Qin Gang, Foreign Minister of China

“One needs to recognize that we are competitors and, sadly, increasingly also systemic rivals.” – Annalena Baerbock, Foreign Minister of Germany

“We have a joint message: we are not seeking decoupling but rather to limit our dependencies when they are excessive.” – Catherine Colonna, Foreign Minister of France

“China is an essential actor in international politics, international climate cooperation and global economy. Major challenges such as climate will not be possible to address without a close dialogue and cooperation.” – Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister of Norway

Good Reads:

Germany calls China systemic rival, seeks clarity on Russia (ABC News)

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock held talks in Berlin, Germany (CGTN)

Qin Gang calls for China, France to work together to 'tackle global challenges' (SCMP)

France and Germany Present United Front on De-Risking China Ties (Bloomberg)

The Prime Minister met Chinas Foreign Minister Qin Gang (