BERLIN: Beijing summoned the German ambassador to China after Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called President Xi Jinping a “dictator”, Berlin said on Monday, in the latest flare-up of tensions between the countries.

While they are major trade partners, Berlin-Beijing ties have been fraying as some in the German government take a harder line over issues ranging from human rights to Taiwan.

Baerbock, who has pushed for a more hawkish line, made the remarks in a Fox News interview on September 14 during a visit to the United States.

While talking about the Ukraine war, she said: “If Putin were to win this war, what sign would that be for other dictators in the world, like Xi, like the Chinese president? So therefore Ukraine has to win this war.” A foreign ministry spokesman in Berlin confirmed that Germany’s ambassador “was summoned to the Chinese foreign ministry (on Sunday)” in relation to the remarks.

The confirmation that China summoned ambassador Patricia Flor came after China said earlier Monday that it was “strongly dissatisfied” with Baerbock’s remarks.

“(The comments) are extremely absurd and are a serious infringement of China’s political dignity and an open political provocation,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a daily news conference.

Asked about China’s protests over her remarks during a visit to New York, Baerbock replied only that she had “taken note” of them.

A government spokesman refused to comment on what Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s view was about the remarks.

But the spokesman added that it was clear “that China is ruled by a Communist, one-party regime, and it is also clear that this does not correspond to our idea of a democracy”.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2023

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