On October 26, Germany's government decided to let the Chinese state-owned enterprise COSCO Shipping Ports, which has links to China's People's Liberation Army, buy a stake in the Port of Hamburg - article by Judith Bergman.
The port of Hamburg is Germany's largest port and the second-largest port in Europe, making it part of Europe's most critical infrastructure.
Germany's Foreign Ministry had also reportedly warned that an investment by COSCO "disproportionately expands China's strategic influence on German and European transport infrastructure as well as Germany's dependence on China... while China itself does not allow Germany to participate in Chinese ports. In this respect, the acquisition of the container terminal does not only have an economic, but especially a geopolitical aspect." — dw.com. October 26, 2022.
The Foreign Ministry clearly fears that in a time of crisis between the countries, China's investment in the port would allow it "to possibly instrumentalize part of Germany's – and therefore Europe's – critical infrastructure."
"Cosco already owns stakes in Europe's two largest ports at Rotterdam and Antwerp...." — Politico, October 20, 2022.
"COSCO's status as an important backbone SOE [state-owned enterprise] means that it's uniquely beholden to the CCP in a way that other SOEs aren't... COSCO's organisational structure includes paramilitary capabilities that can be mobilised by the Chinese regime to defeat threats to the CCP's interests. One such capability is the company's in-house militia..." — Report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
"[S]ome naval analysts to refer to COSCO as the fifth arm of the PLAN [People Liberation Army Navy]" — Naval War College Review, Winter 2019.
"Against the advice of his ministers, the chancellor apparently wants to increase dependence on China. This sell-out of German infrastructure would be a mistake. German ports do not belong in Chinese hands, especially since Europeans can't take a stake in ports in China." — Jens Spahn, Christian Democratic Union party, Twitter, October 20, 2022.
Out of 95 ports, 22 are in Europe, 20 in the Middle East and North Africa, 18 in the Americas, 18 in South and Southeast Asia, and nine in sub-Saharan Africa. Just three Chinese companies, among them COSCO Shipping Ports, account for the operations of 81% of those ports.
In Greece, COSCO has completely taken over Piraeus, Greece's largest port.
Scholz, regardless of the hard lessons that Germany has had to learn with regard to German dependence on Russian gas, has a state visit to China coming up in early November with a German business delegation; letting the COSCO deal fall through would not look good while trying to attract lucrative business deals. China is a key trading partner for Germany: In 2021, it was Germany's top trading partner for the sixth consecutive year.
"It is in their [Communist Chinese Party's] interest that we are divided. It's in our interest that we are united." — Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Axios, October 21, 2022.
"We've been naive because we considered... that Europe was an open supermarket." The EU, needs to establish a framework on what it considers "sensitive points." — French President Emmanuel Macron, The Telegraph, October 21, 2022.
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Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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Pictured: COSCO Shipping Corporation's container ship Xin Lian Yun Gang is unloaded at the Port of Hamburg on October 26, 2022. (Photo by Axel Heimken/AFP via Getty Images)