Merkel seals strategic gains

By Yu Xiang (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-22 14:09
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Sino-German partnership is certain to go a long way in helping to resolve key issues and aiding in global economic recovery

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's four-day visit to China, which concluded Sunday, has further consolidated bilateral ties, already robust in recent years.

During the trip, Merkel reserved high words of praise for her country's relationship with the Asian nation, saying it had entered into a new and more candid phase. In response, Premier Wen Jiabao warmly echoed Merkel's comments, saying her visit would be "historically significant" as far as the relationship was concerned.

During her stay here, Merkel not only garnered for her country some profitable economic and trade orders, but also got from China an assurance that it is committed to conducting economic and trade exchanges with Germany, promoting bilateral technological cooperation and firmly supporting a long-advocated free trade pact in their joint endeavor to further promote global economic stability and recovery.

More important, both sides also agreed to further strengthen mutual strategic trust and set up a reliable strategic partnership in the post-crisis era.

Economic and trade cooperation remains a very important component of Sino-German relations.

Bilateral trade volume totaled 92 billion euros ($118.6 billion) in 2009, with a surplus of nearly 20 billion euros on the Chinese side.

Mechanical equipment and automobiles from Germany have long enjoyed a good reputation among Chinese consumers and is one of the largest selling categories in the Asian nation's market.

Despite an 18 percent decline in its overall export volume in 2009, Germany achieved a 7 percent increase in exports to China the same year. China is currently Germany's most important overseas market, and the latter is Beijing's largest trade partner in Europe.

Expanding economic and trade exchanges have further consolidated bilateral ties and taken it into other realms.

During Merkel's visit, a $4 billion-worth economic and trade accord was inked, covering bilateral cooperation in finance, environmental protection, culture and other areas.

By signing this pact, both countries have once again demonstrated their strong desire to expand cooperation with the other even against the backdrop of a global economic slowdown.

Cooperation and exchanges in the areas of energy conservation, environmental protection, new energy and a green economy are expected to become bright points in future bilateral ties.

China's accelerated economic transformation process will increase demand for advanced technologies from Germany and call for deepened economic and trade cooperation with Europe's largest economy.

At the same time, Germany's economic development and ongoing industrial restructuring also needs a broad overseas market such as China's.

Despite the boom seen in recent years, China and Germany should not base their ties on the economic and trade elements alone. A purely economic and trade cooperation can be easily swayed by politics and negative public opinion on both sides.

In the post-crisis era, the two countries should try to explore new areas beyond economic and trade cooperation to further advance bilateral ties. The signing of a joint communiqu during Merkel's visit, which pushed for a mutual strategic partnership, is expected to serve as a political pillar to prop up bilateral ties in future.

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The second such document in 38 years demonstrates that both countries have remained particularly cautious about developing ties with the other. It also indicates that the time is now ripe for China and Germany to set up a strategic partnership in the midst of the world's ongoing political and strategic adjustment.

China and Germany have both fully realized that they should look at bilateral ties from a global and strategic perspective.

The establishment of a mechanism for regular high-level meetings and consultations between the two countries is expected to enhance mutual trust, ease misgivings and further elevate bilateral ties in an all-round manner.

Enhanced mutual political trust is also expected to help increase people-to-people exchanges and aid citizens on both sides in achieving better understanding of the other.

As two important players in the international arena, the significance of Sino-German relations has gone beyond the purely bilateral.

In the post-crisis era, no single country, however powerful, will be able to resolve such global issues as climate change, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, poverty and imbalanced development. To settle such major concerns, multilateral mechanisms such as the G20 are clearly needed.

Against this backdrop, China and Germany should further strengthen bilateral exchanges and consultations and further deepen mutual cooperation, which will not only help add to the stability of a multi-polarized world, but will also improve the efficiency of tackling a series of issues of global significance.

An ever-deepening relationship between China and Germany will also set a good example for China's ties with other European Union (EU) members. As an important part of China-EU ties, a healthy and stable relationship with Germany will produce positive influences on the country's broader ties with the bloc.

Sino-German strategic partnership will step into a new stage and contribute to world harmony if the two countries work hard according to the direction mapped out by the joint communiqu, and enhance mutual trust, boost bilateral economic and trade cooperation, and enrich people-to-people exchanges.

The author is a research fellow with the Institute of European Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.