Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the Hamburg Summit

11.10.2014 - Speech

-- translation of advance text --

Prime Minister Li,
Prime Minister Bettel,
President Schulz,
Mayor Scholz,
Ladies and gentlemen!

I am delighted to have the privilege of joining you here in Hamburg for the conclusion of the Hamburg Summit.

As you know, this is the second time in my life that I am serving as Foreign Minister – which means that some meetings are more of a reunion for me than a first‑time visit. That is also the case with the Hamburg Summit!

I well remember attending six years ago and have noticed that since then Europe and China have moved a good bit closer together.

Hamburg is perhaps the best place in Germany to talk about our relations with China.

– In 1731 the first German merchant ship departed from Hamburg for China.

– Hamburg has excellent research institutions and think tanks focusing on China and Asia.

– The oldest German chair in Sinology is in Hamburg.

Prime Minister, you sensed yesterday during the intergovernmental consultations that we in Germany are following China’s economic and political upswing very closely. We are doing so with great respect, goodwill and optimism.

This upswing is unparalleled in recent world history. China is now the second–largest economy in the world and is well on the way to becoming the largest.

Economic strength goes hand in hand with political responsibility. The world today needs states that are willing to assume responsibility – even beyond the boundaries of their immediate neighbourhood!

When you open the newspaper in the mornings, it is full of reports of international crises and conflicts – and not only on the first ten pages in the political section, but also in the business and finance section, which is probably no less important for those of you here in this room.

What I mean is that these crises and conflicts affect societies and economies in equal measure! In the case of our German economy, that can currently be seen most clearly in the crisis in Ukraine.

For business and politics do not unfold on different planets.

That is all the more true for two economies that are as globally connected and export‑oriented as China and Germany. The economic strength of both our countries depends on a peaceful, open and above all rules‑based world – a world dominated by the strength of the law and not the law of the strong!

I regard this common interest as the driving force behind Sino‑German foreign policy!

Allow me to share a few thoughts on this, firstly in a bilateral and then in a global context.

Prime Minister Li,

Yesterday during our intergovernmental consultations in Berlin we adopted a plan of action for our innovation partnership – that is to say the blueprint on which we intend to base our cooperation over the coming years.

This plan of action centres not only on research, technology and business. It begins with a joint understanding of our interest in what I described at the beginning of my speech: a transparent order rooted in law which provides the conditions for innovation to flourish!

For the requirements for innovation are

– a modern education system,

– a just social security system,

– a functioning state based on the rule of law.

It is because these values are prerequisites for innovation that our annual bilateral meetings on the rule of law, human rights, sustainability and free media are so important! That is precisely why you, Prime Minister, emphasised in July during the Chancellor’s visit to China that this partnership should bring forth not only new technological and scientific developments but also institutional innovations!

One key word keeps recurring in our action plan: equality.

Achieving this goal, too, depends on rules that apply equally to all parties. Market access and protection of intellectual property, transparent public procurement procedures and rules for ensuring fair competition are all affected. Both sides have their own particular interests, which we discussed yesterday and which we want to reconcile.We agree that only when we distil the notion of equality in all these areas into concrete rules can we maintain the powerful momentum of our economic relations and hopefully even crank it up a few gears, for example in the area of high technology or in connection with Industry 4.0.

We are also making progress in other fields. We have managed to take one very concrete step: we have already considerably simplified and accelerated the visa issuing process for travellers. And we will build on this. Foreign Minister, you have assured us that China will comply with our request to open additional visa processing offices throughout the country. That will result in tangible improvements for all travellers, also and especially for business travellers.

I said at the start that two interconnected nations like China and Germany have to consider not only the rules of play for our own interaction, but also the international order as a whole!

The more a country benefits from a peaceful and structured world order, the more it should contribute to maintaining and strengthening that order! That applies to both our countries.

And at the moment there is indeed plenty to do in this regard!

– Take the example of Ukraine: the peaceful order I am referring to has been seriously violated by Russia’s annexation of Crimea in contravention of international law. The international community was obliged to respond, as indeed it did. That subject formed an integral part of my talks with our Chinese partners in recent days, and I was pleased to see that we agree on many things.

– It goes without saying that both of us, Germany and China, are concerned about the barbaric acts of terrorism perpetrated by ISIS. They are not confined to Syria and Iraq, they pose a threat to all of us! Germany has joined the international alliance against this despicable terrorism – and we are doing our part, providing humanitarian, political and yes, even military support.

– The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is another example of the dangers of a closely connected world – yet the fight against Ebola is also revealing the commitment that China is willing to make. China has sent more than 200 medical assistants to work in the regions hit by Ebola. This engagement deserves our full respect!

Ladies and gentlemen,

I didn’t just meet my Chinese counterpart Wang Yi yesterday in Berlin. Only two weeks ago we rubbed shoulders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. There we posed the question: what significance does the United Nations have for the complex, rapidly changing world of today? What does it mean for emerging powers such as China?

I think the United Nations continues to embody a hope that is as simple as it is revolutionary: the hope of a world that prescribes for itself a code of conduct based on the rule of law!

We must work to achieve that hope – both Germany and, increasingly, China!

Let me be even more specific: in the long term this legal order will not prevail without China and without other key players who work to promote it – a commitment that is also in their own interests!

And in turn – to stop the business representatives in the room from leaning too far back in their chairs ...: when I speak of rules, justice and human rights, I am not just pointing the finger at politicians – enterprises, too, must lead by example! These values must be observed at all stages of the production process – also in working conditions.

To conclude I would like to quote a famous German philosopher, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. He was a great friend of China and, writing in the 17th century, said of Germany and China:

“Let us put our achievements together and use that light to kindle our light.”

Our light is the vision of a peaceful rule–based world founded on justice! We should work together to achieve this, for – and with this the foreign policymaker sets his feet back onto the pragmatic ground of this business conference – only in a world with this kind of order can you make a profit in the long term, with calculated risks. And only in a world like this can prosperity and peace grow and endure.

Thank you.

Related content


Top of page