Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Merkel visit focuses on economy, not human rights

By Zhou Wa (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-09 08:15

German media have termed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to China more as a "business trip" and exercised restraint while reporting on thorny issues such as the differences on human rights between Beijing and Berlin.

Accompanied by a large delegation - of 22 politicians and entrepreneurs from influential companies, including Volkswagen, Siemens and Deutsche Bank - Merkel paid a three-day visit to China (which concluded on Tuesday) for the seventh time since assuming office in 2005, with the German media focusing on the "economic" aspect of her visit. For example, German news agency Deutsche Presse Agentur said: "With politicians and leading heads of (the) German economy, Chancellor Angela Merkel is engaged in the extension of business with China (during her visit this time)."

Despite the differences on human rights and economic policies, Merkel envisages a close relationship between Berlin and Beijing, said German magazine Focus. And in a report published on the website of German newspaper Donaukurier, Agence France-Presse said: "The chancellor's visit program has various dimensions, but it is primarily fixed by business exchanges between China and Germany, which plays a very important role" for both countries.

China is Germany's largest trading partner in Asia, and Germany is China's largest trading and technology partner in the European Union. Bilateral trade in 2013 was worth $161.6 billion, 580 times that in 1972, when China and the then West Germany established diplomatic relations.

The volume of Sino-German trade - equal to China's combined trade with the United Kingdom, France and Italy - accounts for nearly a third of the total trade between China and the EU. Germany is the EU's largest investor in China, with investment growing by 43 percent last year. And Chinese investment in Germany reached $830 million last year, an increase of 29 percent year-on-year. The German media could not afford to miss these impressive bilateral trade and investment figures because they represent enormous business opportunities.

In 2013, China became Germany's second largest market outside the EU - Germany sold goods worth €67 million ($91.09 million) last year - after the United States. The Chinese market plays a very important role for Germany's key industries such as automobiles and machine manufacturing, Focus said. It also said that China was "one of the most important trading partners of Germany".

"If our industries do not establish a foothold here (in China), we will not have any chance to have a place in the world market in the long run. Most of the orders come from here (China)," Focus quoted Norbert Barthle, a politician from Germany's ruling Christian Democratic Union party, as having said.

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