German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock went on Fox News on Friday and issued some bold words which are sure to harm already strained Berlin-Beijing relations. She was making a point about her country staying the course in support for Ukraine when she in passing referred to Chinese President Xi Jinping as a "dictator".
"We will support Ukraine as long as it takes," Baerbock said when the Fox host asked her about how she sees the future of the conflict going. Then she offered the following: "If Putin were to win this war, what sign would that be for other dictators in the world, like Xi, like the Chinese president? Therefore, Ukraine has to win this war."
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock calls Chinese President Xi Jinping a DICTATOR on live news.— The Poll Lady (@ThePollLady) September 15, 2023
Germany’s top imports are from China. Talk about vassal shooting it’s own foot to please thy master.
Certainly this is very risky rhetoric given China accounts for the bulk of all imports into Germany.
And Politico notes Baerbock’s comments came on "the heels of recent trade tensions between Beijing and Brussels, after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen this week said the EU executive would launch an investigation into Chinese electric vehicle subsidies."
Baerbock's "dictator" label for Xi also comes as she's in the United States meeting with Biden administration officials, so perhaps she's looking to present herself as "tough" - also imitating Biden's own dictator quip applied to Xi from this past summer when he was discussing the 'spy balloon' shootdown. China's foreign ministry had not responded as of late Friday.
But it's not as if Berlin is exactly in the driver's seat when it comes to China-Germany ties...
On Friday Baerbock met with her US counterpart Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the White House. Blinken said in a press conference afterward that the US and Germany are converging on their approaches to China.
"We also discussed our common approaches to China, and we very much welcome Germany’s China strategy. It is very coincident with our own," Blinken told reporters. "I think it reflects something that we’ve seen around the world, both in Europe, in Asia, as well as in the United States, which is a growing convergence in our approaches to China."
He then emphasized while alongside the German FM, "Both of us, among other things, share the goal when it comes to our economic relationships of de-risking, not decoupling."