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Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz he opposed the use of nuclear force in Europe, in his most direct remarks yet on the need to keep Russia’s war in Ukraine from escalating.

During the two leaders’ first in-person talks on Friday in Beijing, Xi called on the international community to “reject the threat of nuclear weapons” and advocate against a nuclear war to prevent a “crisis on the Eurasian continent,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The Chinese leader also spoke of the joint need to ensure the stability of food and energy supply chains, which have both been disrupted by war in Ukraine. Kremlin officials including former President Dmitry Medvedev have warned in recent months about the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine as Moscow’s faltering war enters its tenth month.

Scholz is the first major European leader to visit China in more than two years, as Xi returns to in-person diplomacy after his long spell of self-imposed Covid isolation stifled such exchanges. The German leader, who is joined on the one-day trip by top executives from BASF SE, Volkswagen AG, Deutsche Bank AG and BioNTech SE, is also the first from the bloc to meet Xi after he clinched a precedent-defying third term in office last month.

The German leader said his trip came at a “time of great tension,” as Russia’s war in Ukraine challenged the rules-based order, and stressed the importance of face-to-face dialogue. “We can now talk concretely and directly with each other to respond to the challenges the world is facing and the bilateral relations between Europe and China,” he said in a statement.

“Destroying political trust is easy, but rebuilding it is difficult, so it requires both sides to take care of it,” Xi told Scholz, according to Xinhua. In a press briefing after meeting Premier Li Keqiang on Friday afternoon, Scholz said he’d urged China to use its influence over Russia to deter it from nuclear force.

Xi has engaged in a flurry of diplomacy this week, hosting top foreign leaders from Vietnam, Pakistan and Tanzania as he begins a third term focused on increasing China’s global influence.

Later this month, Xi is expected to expand that outreach campaign at major summits in Thailand and Indonesia, where he could sit down with President Joe Biden for the first time since the US leader took power. That meeting could ease hostilities between the world’s two largest economies, which have reached a new low during the pandemic.