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The Port of Hamburg, which markets itself as China’s gateway to Europe.

The Port of Hamburg, which markets itself as China’s gateway to Europe.

Photographer: Imke Lass/Bloomberg

Hamburg Is at the Heart of Germany’s Growing Dilemma Over China

The biggest German port risks being caught between trade and politics.

COSCO Shipping occupies a prime waterfront location in Hamburg. The Chinese marine transportation giant’s European headquarters sit between a historic red-brick warehouse complex and the glass and steel of the redeveloped harbor area. The company is about to expand its presence after striking a deal last month to acquire a stake in a container terminal.

For a city that markets itself as China’s gateway to Europe, the agreement is a step toward becoming a go-to hub for COSCO’s vast cargo shipments. But away from the business of trade that Hamburg has thrived on for centuries, the tighter embrace of China is stirring concerns.