Four decades of dynamic development - Article by Foreign Minister Westerwelle

11.10.2012 - Interview

The following article by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between The Federal Republic of Germany and the People's Republic of China was published on 11 October 2012 on the website of the China Daily (www.chinadaily.com).


Today marks the 40th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the People’s Republic of China. What began in 1972, at a time when China was going through the Cultural Revolution and Germany was still divided, has evolved into a mature Strategic Partnership. Back then, nobody could have and would have anticipated that by 2012 China and Germany would have become each other’s most important economic partners in their respective regions.

Trade and Investments: a strong pillar of our strategic partnership

China is Germany’s third largest trading partner with a trade volume exceeding 140 billion Euros. Trade and investment have seen a very dynamic development during the last decade. Nonetheless, we have not yet completely exploited our full potential. The dynamism of the Chinese economy and Germany’s technological prowess provide an excellent foundation for further developing our Strategic Partnership. I welcome the efforts by the Chinese government to further improve the conditions for cooperation in advanced technologies so as to benefit businesses and the economies of both countries.

Germany is determined to contribute further to the modernization of the Chinese economy. China, in turn, has a genuine interest in closely cooperating with Europe, the largest market for Chinese exports and a major destination for Chinese investment. In particular, I appreciate China’s constructive stance in supporting efforts to overcome the European sovereign debt crisis and its continued confidence in the Euro as the world’s second largest reserve currency. Jointly, Germany and China are determined to maintain financial and economic stability in Asia, in Europe and at the global level.

A wide ranging partnership

The second round of intergovernmental consultations between Germany and China, chaired by Chancellor Merkel and Premier Wen Jiabao, was held in Beijing at the end of August. They were unique in depth and size: Ten German and thirteen Chinese Ministries actively participated in this largest round of consultations ever held between our governments. This level of engagement underscored the breadth and maturity of our partnership. Our partnership ranges from foreign policy issues, economic cooperation, sustainable climate and energy policy, electro-mobility and urban development, to social security reform and vocational training. It encompases also areas where we still have different approaches, such as Human Rights and the Rule of Law. It is now up to us to move forward towards putting these joint initiatives into practice.

Enhancing political co-operation on key strategic issues

On the international political agenda Germany and China should further enhance their cooperation on key strategic issues. For instance, we have a shared vision of a peaceful Afghanistan. We also share a common goal with respect to the resolution of the on-going conflict in Syria: To stop further bloodshed and to find a political solution. Yet, the Security Council must now live up to its responsibilities for peace and stability and act decisively in order to end this humanitarian catastrophe.

I am concerned by the impact of the recent tensions in the East and South China Sea for the stability, prosperity and well-being of East Asia. We call on all parties to refrain from unilateral steps, to deescalate and to seek peaceful solutions. Open issues can only be solved sustainably through co-operation and constructive negotiations, including international dispute settlement mechanisms.

People-to-people exchanges: a strong foundation for the future

Our relationship, however, should not be and was never limited to the fields of politics and economics. Since the time of Enlightenment, German thinkers have been fascinated by Chinese culture. What was true for the intellectual elite for several hundred years is nowadays a broader societal phenomenon. The Chinese Culture Year 2012 in Germany and the “Zukunftsbrücke”, a newly initiated German-Chinese young leaders network, are but two of the recent major initiatives to bring people from both countries closer together.

The impressive and growing figure of around 23.000 Chinese students in Germany also speaks for itself. Students from China now constitute the largest foreign student community in Germany. Similarly, the number of Germans studying Chinese is on a remarkable rise. It is our aim to further broaden these cultural and people-to-people exchanges to deepen mutual understanding and counter misperceptions. In addition to our economic ties and political exchanges, close links among our scientific communities and the further deepening of people-to-people networks will form a strong foundation for our partnership in the future.

Widening our Consular network: A new Consulate-General in Shenyang

Tomorrow, we will take another step towards further strengthening this Strategic Partnership between our two countries: In Shenyang, I will open the fifth German Consulate-General in China. China’s North-East has become a hub for innovative German investment, especially in automotive industries. By enhancing our diplomatic presence, we want to provide further incentives for investing in this rapidly transforming region and establish a stronger link to Europe. The new Consulate-General is an examples of our considerable joint efforts to further deepen our partnership. In an understanding of shared responsibility, Germany and China can together make an important contribution to a prosperous, healthy and peaceful global future

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