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China Condemns German Minister’s Taiwan Visit as ‘Egregious Act’

(Bloomberg) -- China reacted furiously to a visit to Taiwan by a German cabinet minister aimed at expanding technology cooperation, calling it an “egregious act” and accusing the government in Berlin of meddling in China’s domestic affairs.

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“We call on Germany to abide by the ‘one China’ principle, immediately stop interacting with and sending wrong signals to Taiwan independence and separatist forces, and to stop using the Taiwan question as a pretext to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Tuesday at a regular press briefing in Beijing.

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German Education and Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger became the first member of the federal cabinet to visit Taiwan in 26 years this week. The two nations don’t have formal diplomatic ties and before her visit, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government was keen to stress that it stands by its long-standing “one China” policy.

It’s a delicate balancing act for Scholz’s ruling coalition, which on the one hand wants to maintain deep and complex business relations with China while pushing ahead with diversification in Asia and avoiding over-reliance on one country.

A member of the liberal, pro-business Free Democrats, Stark-Watzinger said a science and technology accord signed by Germany and Taiwan during her trip is an example of “cooperation on the basis of democratic values, transparency, openness, reciprocity, and scientific freedom.”

Taiwan is an important partner for Germany in batteries, including storage technology, green hydrogen and especially in semiconductors, she told reporters at a media briefing Tuesday in Taipei.

Germany is pushing for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to establish its first European facility in the eastern region of Saxony as part of an effort to secure key technologies. Stark-Watzinger said that she won’t meet with TSMC officials during her trip, which ends on Wednesday.

“Taiwan and Germany both know that democracy, peace and shared prosperity will lead the world to a brighter future,” Wu Tsung-tsong, minister of Taiwan’s National Science and Technology Council, said at the briefing. “We both see importance in supporting basic research and scientific and economic development.”

Stark-Watzinger’s visit to Taipei comes amid discussions among senior members of Scholz’s cabinet about how Berlin should position itself considering Beijing’s increasingly assertive stance on Taiwan, which China claims as part of its territory.

Scholz’s government is in the final stages of drafting a National Security Strategy in which economic resilience and reducing one-sided dependencies on countries including China will feature prominently. China is expected to be described as an international partner, economic competitor and systemic rival.

--With assistance from Michael Nienaber, Philip Glamann, Lucille Liu and Samson Ellis.

(Recasts throughout with Chinese reaction)

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