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Special> Premier Li's First Foreign Trip> Opinion
UPDATED: September 10, 2012 NO. 37 SEPTEMBER 13, 2012
Seeking Mutuality With Merkel
German chancellor's second Beijing trip this year boosts Sino-German relations
By Li Chao

As the two countries overcame setbacks caused by Merkel's meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2007, Sino-German relations have experienced sound development, especially in the past two years. The personal friendship between leaders of the two countries also carries on smoothly, laying a solid foundation for comprehensive interaction in the future. Since China faces a leadership transition in the coming months, this might be the last time for Wen to receive Merkel as Chinese premier. During their interactions in recent years, the two leaders have developed a close personal friendship. When Wen visited Germany in April, Merkel accompanied him for the entire trip as they visited the Hanover trade fair and the headquarters of Volkswagen. This time, Wen accompanied Merkel to his hometown of Tianjin, creating another memorable visit for the German chancellor. In addition, Merkel met with younger leaders such as Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang, which will help to create favorable conditions for future bilateral communication.

New cooperation fields

The economies of China and Germany are highly complementary. Besides their traditional economic cooperation in heavy industry, the two could explore other fields that are mutually beneficial. Judging from the achievements of the most recent round of consultations, the two sides are likely to conduct extensive cooperation in several new areas.

After the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan in 2011, Germany initiated a green energy strategy and decided to close all nuclear power stations in the country by 2022. Germany will then turn to solar, wind and biological energy as a substitute. Meanwhile, it is moving to make a breakthrough in electric vehicles. As green energy is an inevitable trend of the future, China has also increased input in the field in recent years and made much progress. For instance, China's high-efficiency storage battery technology was well received in the German market. However, competition among enterprises in the two countries is also emerging. As solar energy products made in China have price advantages, they met with trade protectionism in Germany. In fact, China and Germany have the potential to complement each other in clean and renewable energy. Germany has a technical advantage while China's labor cost is relatively competitive. The large demand for new energy products in China also provides German products with a huge potential market. The two sides might also pursue cooperation in environmental protection, high technology transfer as well as energy security.

Cultural exchanges, as a supplement of political and economic relations, play a vital role in deepening mutual friendship and promoting nongovernmental ties. Cultural exchanges between the countries have become more and more frequent in recent years. The three-year-long "Germany and China—Move Ahead Together" campaign from 2007 to 2010 bolstered mutual understanding between the two cultures. It also helped to push forward cooperation in urban planning, transportation, infrastructure construction, energy saving, cultural facility improvement and more.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Chinese Culture Year in Germany, inaugurated at the very beginning of 2012, gives German people a chance to participate in diverse Chinese cultural activities and take a truthful and lively look at China up close. The cultural activities have substantially increased people-to-people interaction, which will pave the way for bilateral political and economic cooperation. What's more, cultural exchanges are not merely limited to the folk level. There is vast room in science, education, healthcare and art for the two to learn from each other. High-level cooperation in those fields would break the traditional mode of cooperation and lend new vitality to bilateral relations.

China and Germany have the potential to complement each other in clean and renewable energy. Germany has a technical advantage while China's labor cost is relatively competitive

The author is a researcher with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations

Email us at: yanwei@bjreview.com

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