Geopolitical tensions derail Duisburg’s hopes of trade bonanza
DUISBURG, Germany — Suad Durakovic, the owner of a truck driving school on the outskirts of the western German city of Duisburg, made it into Chinese newspapers in 2019 by testifying that Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative had triggered a local logistics industry boom.
Today, his business benefits from a shortage of qualified truckers, but not because of China’s global infrastructure development strategy.
“The Silk Road has not developed for us,” Durakovic told Nikkei Asia. “First it was COVID, then it was the Ukraine war, so the boom is no longer about Silk Road logistics.”
Duisburg, a city of half a million people, is located in Germany’s industrial heartland at the junction of the Rhine and Ruhr rivers. A downturn in the country’s steel and coal industries in the 1990s and early 2000s battered its economy.
But the city found a savior in Chinese President Xi Jinping, who visited Duisburg in 2014 to officially make its inland port Europe’s main Belt and Road hub. While this fueled anticipation of a new heyday, recent events suggest the prospects are dimming.
Much of this stems from the Ukraine war and Germany’s awkward relationship with China.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz was the first European leader to visit Beijing since Xi secured a third term as party leader at the Communist Party Congress in October. But German attitudes have soured recently over China’s cozy relationship with Russia, Taiwan and human rights, as well as its growing trade deficit with the world’s second-biggest economy.
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