BERLIN — Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang cautioned his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock on Tuesday that Beijing would react strongly if the EU were to sanction Chinese companies over their potential role in assisting Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Yet Baerbock rebuffed the warning, telling Qin it was China’s obligation to make sure its companies don’t deliver weapons or so-called dual-use goods, which can be used for Russia’s war efforts, to Moscow.
“On exports of dual-use goods, we proceed according to regulations and laws … China and Russian enterprises have normal exchanges and cooperation, which should not be affected,” Qin told reporters during a press conference at the German foreign ministry in Berlin.
“We are resolutely opposed to certain countries, certain blocs of countries, using their so-called laws to exercise long-arm jurisdiction and unilateral sanctions against other countries, including China. If that happens, China will react in necessary ways,” Qin said.
The Chinese minister’s warning came as the European Commission added eight Chinese companies to a draft of an upcoming package of sanctions, according to documents obtained by POLITICO. These companies, six of which are headquartered in Hong Kong, are seen as having circumvented EU sanctions against Russia’s procurement of dual-use goods including microchips.
Baerbock, however, stressed it was important that EU sanctions against Russia “are not being undermined by circumventions,” and that it was “particularly critical” if Russian arms companies obtained goods that allowed them to produce new weapons that can be used to attack Ukraine.
“That is why we, as the European Union, are examining very targeted measures … to ensure that sanctioned goods and dual-use goods do not fall into the wrong hands,” Baerbock said. “This is not directed against any specific country but relates specifically to these sanctioned goods. But we expect all countries, and China as well, to exert appropriate influence on their companies in that sense.”
Baerbock, who clashed with Qin during a tense press conference in Beijing last month, also reiterated her calls on China to respect human rights and to exert pressure on Russia to end its war and withdraw its troops from Ukrainian soil.
Relations between Berlin and Beijing have been strained including when it emerged on Monday that China canceled a visit by German Finance Minister Christian Lindner to the country this week at the last minute, causing speculation that this might be related to the critical stance of Lindner and his Free Democratic Party toward China and its relations with Taiwan.
Baerbock reminded her Chinese counterpart that, with a view toward planned German-Chinese government consultations on June 20, it was “important” to establish “direct contacts” and dialogue between ministers.
Qin argued that the short-notice cancelation of the Lindner visit was due to “an urgent schedule” change by Chinese Finance Minister Liu Kun, and said the matter “should not be over-interpreted.” He added that Lindner was still welcome to visit China “as soon as possible.”