On March 22, the Chinese consul from Hamburg went to Kiel for an appointment. There he met Hinrich Habeck, the brother of Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck. Consul Cong Wu praised the "friendly connection" between the Chinese province of Zhejiang and Schleswig-Holstein. It is a model for cooperation at the local level between China and Germany. We are looking forward to deepening cooperation – in the field of alternative energies, the digital economy, food processing and medical care. Protectionism and "de-coupling" are firmly rejected. "De-coupling" means structuring economic relations in such a way that they can be terminated unilaterally without significant damage.
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Hinrich Habeck met the consul in his capacity as Managing Director of Wirtschaftsförderung und Technologietransfer Schleswig-Holstein GmbH (WTSH). WTSH promotes Schleswig-Holstein as a business location abroad and advises companies from Schleswig-Holstein on their expansion into other countries. The main shareholder is the state. Hinrich Habeck took up the position just over a year ago.
There are two versions of what Hinrich Habeck is said to have said to the Chinese consul. The Chinese side reads: "China has been in the past, is in the present and will always be one of Schleswig-Holstein's most important trading partners in the future." In addition, Hinrich Habeck is said to have said: "Schleswig-Holstein attaches great importance to the mutually beneficial economic and trade cooperation with China and the partnership with Zhejiang." And: "WTSH will continue to do its best to support the mutual economic investment of companies from Schleswig-Holstein and China." This is what the consulate writes in a report that was published only in Chinese on its website.
The second version goes like this: The German side denies that Hinrich Habeck said that. "This statement by Mr. Hinrich Habeck was not made in this wording," WTSH said in response to a request from the F.A.Z. The quote was not coordinated with the WTSH "and therefore not to be used". A spokeswoman confirmed that the meeting took place on March 22 and lasted about an hour. However, what Hinrich Habeck said in the conversation with the consul is not shared by the WTSH. A report from the German side on the conversation cannot be found on the Internet either.
There are hardly any self-confessed friends of China left. The war in Ukraine has exposed Germany's dependence on Russia. As a result, awareness of the problems that could arise from economic dependence on China has also grown. This was demonstrated, for example, by the debate about the Chinese state-owned company Cosco acquiring a stake in the Tollerort container terminal in Hamburg. Six federal ministries rejected the idea of allowing Cosco to acquire 35 percent of the shares in the operating company.
A project in Kiel is met with concerns
Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck of the Greens is one of the critics of China in the federal government. He recently told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that it was "fundamentally clear" that Germany needed to become less dependent on China. "This means strengthening resilience, positioning ourselves more broadly, and making economic security a key issue. This must be at the top of the political agenda," he demanded. A meeting like the one with his brother Hinrich Habeck can therefore be sold by the consulate in Beijing as a complete success. In any case, the Chinese Foreign Ministry also adopted the report of the Hamburg consulate on its website.