China’s port and shipping industry is expanding rapidly. Beijing now has investments in more than 100 harbors in 63 countries. And it wants to buy even more, extending its global dominance in shipping.

But not every acquisition is easy. In the autumn of 2022, German chancellor Olaf Scholz decided to sell 24,9% of the shares of container terminal Tollerort, one of the four container terminals in Hamburg port to Cosco, a Chinese state-owned company. His decision has caused a heated public debate within Germany. Six German ministries, Germany’s intelligence services and the European Commission all warned against this deal. Allowing this critical infrastructure to fall into China’s hand, the opposition camp argues, is like repeating the mistake of depending on Russia on natural resources.

In this episode we talk with Dr Tim Rühlig from the DGAP, the German Society for External Policy, about the economic incentives of Chinese port investments – as well as its risks and dangers. We discuss China’s global maritime strategy and how these ports could be used in times of a military conflict. We reflect on the question of economic dependency – why we know so little about it and how we could become more resilient.

This episode is edited by Yu Ge.

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