Sino-German relations: 35 years of maturity, prosperity

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-24 06:55

Editor's Note: Li Nianping, vice- director of the Department of European Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, granted an interview on Sino-German relations to China Daily prior to German President Horst Kohler's state visit to China, which began yesterday.

Q: This year marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Germany, how do you evaluate the development of bilateral relations in recent years?

A: Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in October 1972, China-Germany relations have gone through 35 years.

Thirty-five years old means self-confidence and vitality for an individual; for relations between two countries, it stands for maturity and prosperity.

After 35 years of joint efforts, I believe China-Germany relations have become mature and are entering a new stage of comprehensive and in-depth development.

In the political field, high-level contact between the two sides is frequent and political mutual trust has been intensified. Heads of states and governments from both sides exchanged mutual visits in the past 18 months, which is unprecedented in the history of Sino-German relations.

In the economic and trade field, cooperation between the two sides has developed rapidly and bilateral trade amounted to $78.2 billion last year, more than 280 times that in the year of the establishment of diplomatic ties between them.

Both sides also have a close partnership in culture, science and technology, environmental protection, and justice, which has born fruit.

The two countries have also increased exchanges and coordination in international affairs.

Maintaining continual, stable and healthy development of China-Germany relations and expansion of friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields conform to the fundamental interests of the two peoples and are also conducive to world peace and common development.

Q: At the invitation of President Hu Jintao, German President Horst Kohler will pay a state visit to China on May 23-26. What do you expect from the visit?

A: President Kohler's visit is a big event in Sino-German relations this year. During the visit, Chinese leaders will exchange views with him on bilateral relations and international issues of common concern.

The visit, I believe, will help further enhance the mutual understanding and trust between the two countries and take Sino-German relations to a new level.

Q: China and Germany agreed to establish a partnership of global responsibility when Premier Wen Jiabao visited Germany in May 2004. What common interests do you think the two countries share regarding international affairs and how should they cooperate in this regard?

A: Both China and Germany are influential countries in their respective regions, sharing important responsibilities in safeguarding world peace and promoting common development.

The two countries hold the same or similar positions on many international affairs, propose the establishment of an international order with the United Nations at the core and based on the principle of multilateralism and international law, as well as advocate the elimination of poverty, protection of the environment and sustainable development.

They also maintain the diversity of civilizations and promote dialogues between different civilizations.

They both face the challenges of threat in traditional or non-traditional fields and share wide-ranging and common concerns in combating terrorism and the proliferation of arms, dealing with infectious diseases and major natural disasters, as well as in energy security and environmental protection.

All of these constitute the basis for them to strengthen collaboration in international affairs.

In recent years, China and Germany have intensified their partnership in multilateral institutions like the UN and maintain close coordination in major international and regional affairs.

China is ready to continue communication and cooperation with Germany on the basis of mutual respect and equality, enrich the content of the partnership of global responsibility between them, and join hands in building a harmonious world.

Q: Germany has been China's biggest trade partner in Europe while China is its largest trade partner in Asia. What do you think is the potential for the two countries to further develop economic and trade relations?

A: Germany is the No 1 economic power in Europe, No 2 trading power on the globe and No 3 economic power in the world.

In the past three decades, Germany has been China's biggest trade partner in Europe and is also one of the major sources of foreign capital and technology for China.

In 2002, China overtook Japan to become the biggest trade partner of Germany in Asia.

Currently, Sino-German cooperation is rising encouragingly. Bilateral trade has maintained a two-digit yearly increase over the past 10 years. The volume reached a new high last year, a 23.6-percent increase from that of 2005.

Moreover, trade volume between China and Germany constituted 28.7 per cent of that between China and the European Union (EU) in the same period. Germany tops the EU in terms of investment in China in the past five years.

However, we found there is a large gap between the status quo of the Sino-German economic relations and the economic strength and market demand of the two countries. Bilateral trade volume registers a small proportion of respective overall trade volume, which demonstrates that there is great potential for the two countries to develop exchanges in the economic and trade sectors.

I believe the potential lies in the fields of service trade, energy, environmental protection, health, infrastructure and advanced science and technology. Besides, there is a lot to do for them in reciprocal investment and cooperation between small and medium-sized enterprises from both sides.

In brief, the two countries have enough conditions to expand their pragmatic cooperation and jointly make the "cake" of economic and trade partnership "bigger and better".

Q: Premier Wen Jiabao announced when he visited Germany last September that China would invite 400 German youths to visit the country while Germany will hold a series of cultural events in China between 2007 and 2010. How do you evaluate the related cooperation between the two countries?

A: Cultural and youth exchanges are important in the two countries' cooperation. Youths are the future of a country, the hope of a nation and also the vital links in relations between two countries.

Strengthening youth exchange is of crucial importance for the sustainable development of Sino-German relations. I believe Premier Wen invited 400 German youths to China during his visit to Germany last September based on this consideration. This is the first youth exchange on such a large scale in the history of China-Germany relations and the first batch of German youths will visit China this July.

I'm confident that the activity will surely enhance mutual understanding and friendship between Chinese and German youths and inject new vitality into relations between the two nations.

Both China and Germany have splendid and colorful cultures and the two peoples admire and enjoy each other's cultural richness, which is the basis for the development of mutual cultural exchange.

In recent years, cultural exchanges between China and Germany have become more intense, with various exhibitions and performances being held often.

China currently has eight Confucius Institutes in Germany while the latter has set up a number of Goethe Institutes in China.

German language learning has become very popular in China, while the learning of Chinese is on the upswing in Germany.

The Center for Chinese Culture will open in Berlin within this year, while a series of German cultural activities will be launched soon in China.

I believe such exchanges will help promote mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples and also enrich the content of the relations between the two countries.

Q: China and the EU have established a comprehensive and strategic partnership. How do you think China and Germany should cooperate under the framework of the China-EU relationship?

A: When Premier Wen Jiabao visited Germany in May 2004, the two governments announced in a joint communiqu that China and Germany would build a partnership of global responsibility under the framework of the China-EU comprehensive and strategic partnership, which became a guideline for the cooperation between China and Germany.

China has been considering and handling relations with the EU and its members from an overall and strategic perspective.

The Chinese side attaches special importance to the role and influence of Germany in the EU, and is willing to develop further partnership with Germany under the framework of China-EU relations.

We hope the German side will continue to play a positive role in the EU, heed Chinese concerns and make bigger contributions to the growth of the comprehensive and strategic partnership between China and the EU.

(China Daily 05/24/2007 page3)

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