BERLIN — Lawmakers from two of Germany’s governing parties on Thursday slammed plans for Chinese shipping company Cosco to take a major stake in the operator of the country’s biggest container terminal, warning that they pose a national security risk.
Public broadcaster NDR reported that Chancellor Olaf Scholz has asked officials to find a compromise that would allow the investment to happen, after several ministries initially rejected it on the grounds that Cosco, already the port’s biggest customer, could get too much leverage.
Neither the ministries nor Scholz’s office immediately responded to requests for comment. But lawmakers from the Green party and the Free Democrats, which formed a coalition last year with Scholz’ Social Democrats, criticized the plan.
“Our critical infrastructure must not become a plaything for the geopolitical interests of others,” Green party lawmaker Marcel Emmerich said. Citing a past government decision by one of Scholz’s fellow Social Democrats to let Russia buy German natural gas storage facilities, he accused the chancellor of wanting to “flog off parts of the port of Hamburg to China, whatever it takes.”
The pro-business Free Democrats likewise expressed opposition to the deal.
“The Chinese Communist Party must not have access to our country’s critical infrastructure,” the party’s general secretary, Bijan Djir-Sarai, told German news agency dpa. “That would be a mistake and a risk.”
“China is an importing trading partner but also a systemic rival,” he was quoted as saying. “We should act accordingly.”
Another Free Democrat lawmaker, Reinhard Houben, told news portal t-online that the chancellery should respect the decision by six ministries opposing the sale.
The government dispute over Germany’s stance toward Chinese investments comes days after Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Berlin must avoid repeating with China the mistakes it made with Russia over recent years, leading to a dependence on Russian energy imports.
German intelligence agencies also warned this week of China’s rising might and how it could become a risk for Germany, particularly because of the strong economic and scientific ties between the two countries.
In a hearing with lawmakers, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, Thomas Haldenwang, made a comparison with the current geopolitical turmoil over the war in Ukraine, saying that “Russia is the storm, China is climate change.”