50 years of China-Germany relations: Forging ahead with fortitude
By Zahid Hussain Khan

Editor's Note: Zahid Hussain Khan is currently doing a fellowship at the Center for European Integration in Bonn, Germany. He has 15 years of working experience as a journalist. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily those of CGTN.

The foundation of the relations between China and Germany was laid decades before the establishment of formal diplomatic ties in 1972.

The idea of using German know-how for economic development surfaced as early as in 1921, when some Chinese pioneers started exploring Germany's knowledge and skill to inspire change.

In the words of the German foreign office, German-Chinese relations have developed into great diversity and density.

In view of international crises and growing global challenges (including climate change and COVID-19 pandemic), German-Chinese cooperation and coordination are of great importance, it says.

With a trading volume of 245 billion euros (about $238 billion), China was Germany's largest goods trading partner in 2021.

In 2019, China was Germany's most important trading partner for the fourth time. German automobile manufacturers sell more vehicles in China than in their home market.

Many German companies have been actively expanding their business with China for years. In 2018, EU countries imported 400 billion euros (about $389 billion) worth of goods from China.

Germany exports more to China than any other country in the EU. German exports to China in 2018, at 93.7 billion euros (about $91 billion), were worth more than the combined exports to China of the next eight European countries – including France and Italy. Germany exported four and a half times as much to China as France.

Government consultations

Relations are characterized by regular high-level political coordination in a large number of dialogue mechanisms, as well as trade relations, investments, environmental cooperation, and cultural and scientific policy cooperation.

German-Chinese government consultations have been in place for 10 years, initiated by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This high-level government dialogue is only conducted with particularly close partners.

In 2014, the bilateral ties were upgraded to a "comprehensive strategic partnership."

According to a joint declaration from government consultations in 2018 titled "Responsible Partners for a Better World," Germany and China pledged themselves, among other things, to the "primacy of the rule-based international order," to the human rights agreements signed by both sides, and to support the United Nations and its goals.

These goals were certainly also intended as a message to Washington, where then-President Donald Trump made no secret of his contempt for the international order and its institutions.

The climate pledge

Progress has also been made in cooperation on climate and environmental protection. Germany's then-Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze and Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment Huang Runqiu signed a corresponding agreement last April.

Cooperation between the two countries also shaped the scientific landscape, as the German-Chinese exchanges in science have become ever closer over the past three decades.

In the past decade, Chinese students have made up the largest proportion of international students at German universities at 10 percent, and scientists are also increasingly visiting Germany.

The current German government is still new, and there is no clear policy shift toward China.

Reuters reported last month in an exclusive report, Germany's Economy Minister and Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck as saying that, "they would include a closer examination of Chinese investments in Europe, such as infrastructure."

He did not outline new measures in full. However, the more robust demand from China and the U.S. helped raise German exports slightly more than expected, said the statistics office earlier this week.

Despite the difference of opinion on some issues, China is a key cooperation partner for Germany, and such a relationship is best in a European concert.

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