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China-Germany ties play leading role in China-EU ties

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-05-25 21:16

BERLIN - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is scheduled to start a visit to Germany on Saturday, the last stop of his first overseas trip after he took office.

The fact that Germany is the the only European Union (EU) member included in Li's ongoing four-nation trip evinces the importance of China-Germany ties in the China-EU relationship, said Shi Mingde, China's ambassador in Berlin.

"Pragmatic cooperation between Germany and China is playing a leading role in China-EU relations," he said.

Such pragmatic cooperation is featured by frequent exchange of visits and contacts of the two countries' leaders, as well as by a fruitful economic and trade relationship, Shi added.

"If I exclude our European neighbors, then to my knowledge, our chancellor visited only one country twice last year, that was China," said Friedolin Strack, managing director of the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business.

"I think there is a special relationship (between Germany and China)," he said.

When Merkel visited Beijing last August, she took seven of her ministers for the second round of Germany-China inter-government consultations.x   "This is the highest level of consultation mechanism that China has with a Western country," Shi said, adding that more than 40 dialogue and consultation mechanisms also exist at different levels between the two countries in the fields of foreign policy, trade, investment, science and technology, education and culture.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, during Li's visit, a series of documents regarding cooperation in manufacturing, investment, finance and urbanization will be signed. Li will also deliver a speech at a business luncheon and make extensive contacts with German political and business leaders.

For years, China's trade with Germany has constitued nearly one third of its total trade with EU as a whole. Germany accounts for 25 percent of EU's total investment in China and 40 percent of the value of the bloc's technology transfer to China, Shi said.

With bilateral trade reaching $161 billion in 2012, which is 580 times of the figure in 1972, the Germany-China economic and trade cooperation is the most successful area of the EU-China ties, he said.

Chinese government data show that investment from Germany reached $1.45 billion last year, up 28.5 percent year-on-year.

"Germany has a strong share in the overall trade volume between Europe and China," said Benjamin Leipold, Asia-Pacific director in the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce.

"If big German companies invested in a factory in China, then suppliers from other European countries, like French and Italy, would follow. That is for sure," he said.

Gu Xuewu, director of the Center for Global Studies in Bonn University, said Germany is the engine of the European economy, while China offers the momentum for the economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large.

"The success of the two giants' cooperation has gone beyond the bilateral scope," he said.

"The overall growth of the European economy heavily relies on Germany. The bigger Germany achieves in its economic and trade ties with China, the more the whole EU gains," Gu added.

The bilateral investment cooperation is not a one-way street any more. Seeing Germany as a gateway to the European market, many Chinese companies located their Europe research and production centers in the country.

According to the Bertelsmann Foundation, China's investment in Germany would be tripled from the level of 2012 to $2.1 billion by 2020.

Strong investment and trade ties with China have created and retained jobs in Germany and bolstered Germany's status as EU's leading economy, said Benno Bunse, CEO of Germany Trade and Invest.

"I believe the smooth and fruitful Germany-China cooperation would inspire other EU countries in their relations with China," he said.

In the opinion of Cora Jungbluth, director of China Project in the Bertelsmann Foundation, economic interests, dialogue mechanisms and mutual respect are the foundations of the successful Germany-China cooperation.

Jungbluth said both Germany and China are export-oriented economies, so they need each other as the biggest markets in Asia and Europe, respectively. On the other hand, the "upgraded economy" that China is trying to develop needs advanced technologies and skills from Germany.

She added that various dialogue mechanisms and inter-government consultations have deepened mutual trust between the two countries.

"They value an equal partnership and treat each other with respect. This is an essential element for China, considering its history, and should be remembered by other Western developed countries," Jungbluth said.

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