-- Translation of advance text --
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am particularly happy to be with you this evening to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Germany and China.
Forty years ago today, on 11 October 1972, the then German Foreign Minister, Walter Scheel, visited China. In establishing diplomatic relations, China and Germany took a big step towards each other. Today our countries are linked by a strategic partnership. Today Germany and China are playing in the Champions League of globalization. At global level, cooperation between Germany and China is a necessary precondition for a better future. China and Germany are shaping globalization.
A few weeks ago, we held the second German-Chinese intergovernmental consultations. This high-level format for our cooperation is evidence of the depth of our relations. Allow me to take this opportunity to thank the Chinese Government once again for this good dialogue and to express my sincere personal appreciation of all that has been achieved. We will take up on this with a new Chinese Government.
I am here today with a parliamentary delegation. And in Britta Heidemann I am accompanied not only by a world-class athlete, but also by a proven expert on and good friend of China.
Good contacts between governments are important. Friendship between peoples is indispensable.
Since our two countries established diplomatic relations, China has become a remarkable success story.
China’s policy of reform and opening-up, which was launched about thirty years ago, triggered your country’s great rise. Today China is the world’s second-largest economic power.
Over just a few decades, China has freed hundreds of millions of its people from hunger and poverty. For many people, the standard of living and level of education have improved tangibly.
China has seized the opportunities inherent in globalization. Hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens in this huge multiethnic state now belong to an educated middle class. The number of people in this middle class will soon be equal to the population of Europe. It will form the backbone of a stable, dynamic society. This deserves our recognition.
Germany is following China’s rise with great fascination and deep respect.
We are pleased about China’s rise, because it opens up more opportunities for more cooperation between our countries.
In their mutual interest, Germany and China have made good use of the past forty years.
Today China is our most important economic partner in Asia. Last year our volume of trade totalled 144 billion euros. Germany is the biggest European investor in China, while more and more Chinese companies are investing in the German and European markets. As export nations, we share a fundamental interest in free trade and open trade routes.
There are currently more than 25,000 Chinese students in Germany, the largest group of foreign students. Some 4000 German students are studying in China. We wish it were more. Young Germans should seize the opportunities a period of study in China, one of the 21st century’s powerhouses, would offer.
The fascination of each side with the life and culture of the other is unabated. We can see that again now with the Year of Chinese Culture in Germany. And the German exhibition “The Art of the Enlightenment” had almost half a million visitors here in Peking.
Our world has changed a great deal over the past forty years. A global shift is taking place. And the speed of change is increasing. China’s breathtaking rise is impressive proof of that.
New centres of power are emerging. Economic strength generates political clout. This, in turn, results in a large share of responsibility for the world.
In the 40 years of our bilateral relations, Germany and China have built up an intensive political dialogue based on trust.
We have developed a relationship which can withstand disagreements.
This is the spirit in which we hold talks, for instance in the Rule of Law Dialogue. We are agreed that respect for each other’s traditions and views is the basis for a frank and productive dialogue.
Every country is different. Every country has its own history. Nonetheless, we will build a shared future in a spirit of partnership.
When China and Germany established diplomatic relations forty years ago, Germany was a divided country. Europe was dominated by the Cold War. The entire continent was divided.
United Europe is the answer to the darkest chapter in our history and it is Germany’s first answer to globalization.
Many in China are wondering whether Europe can overcome its debt crisis and whether it will continue to play a formative role in the world in future. The answer is a definite yes!
Europe has substantial responsibility in the world. And Germany is mindful of its responsibility to Europe. And we are grateful that China too is shouldering responsibility in the crisis.
Allow me to convey to you warm greetings from former Federal Foreign Minister and former Federal President Walter Scheel. Please permit me also to convey to President Hu and Premier Wen the very best wishes of the Federal President and the Federal Chancellor.
Long live the Chinese-German friendship!