Exchange between people must follow the exchange of goods. This was how Foreign Minister Steinmeier explained his view of future German-Chinese relations in his speech at the China Meets Europe conference at Hamburg Chamber of Commerce. After the conference, he held talks with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu Yandong.
Hamburg and Shanghai lie 13,000 kilometres apart. And yet the two port cities are very closely connected. Every third container lifted from a ship by the cranes in Hamburg port comes from China. Every fifth Airbus assembled by technicians in Hamburg flies to China after it is completed. In the past 12 months, there have been more high‑level political visits than ever before in German-Chinese history. Foreign Minister Steinmeier firmly believes that two countries that are so closely interwoven and have such great economic influence worldwide also have a special responsibility. “Under conditions of uncertainty and upheaval, we must try to create the highest possible level of reliability,” he said.
Economic strength brings with it responsibility
For Germany, the path to creating reliability is clear. Strengthening a rules‑based international order and the primacy of international law is a key goal of German foreign policy. Steinmeier is certain that rules‑based interaction must always be in the fundamental interests of large trading nations such as Germany and China, as reliability and stability, which are essential for global trade, can only exist if the rules are recognised by everyone. In recent times, Germany and China have increasingly been pulling together. In the negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran, both countries worked closely together in the E3+3 negotiating group.
Stability through fair rules
Steinmeier called for an open dialogue in trade policy. “We will continue to be very open to Chinese investments,” he said. “However, investments must never become a one‑way street.” German and Chinese companies must be guaranteed free access to the markets in the other country. Steinmeier said he would particularly welcome even greater cooperation between Germany and China in fields outside politics and business. “Along with the exchange of goods and services, we should facilitate the exchange of ideas, stories and experiences – in other words, exchange between people.”
Exchange means more than trade
Following intensive talks on bilateral relations, Steinmeier and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu Yandong had an opportunity to find out for themselves how much potential lies in contact between people from Germany and China when they attended the closing event of the German-Chinese Year of School and Youth Exchange 2016 at Universität Hamburg. The young people’s curiosity and euphoria made it clear to Steinmeier and Liu Yandong that Germany and China’s future will be closely interlinked.