China-Germany strategic partnership bolsters Sino-European ties

China and Germany have enjoyed stable relations over time, with trade playing a highly significant role in the evolution of their bilateral relationship.
China-Germany strategic partnership bolsters Sino-European ties

The booth of German cleaning company Kärcher at the fourth China International Consumer Products Expo in Haikou, south China's Hainan province, on April 14, 2024.

China and Germany are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their all-round strategic partnership this year. The two countries have enjoyed stable relations over time, with trade playing a highly significant role in the evolution of their bilateral relationship.

German statistics depict progress. Specifically, German exports to China rose from 18.3 billion euros ($19.4 billion) in 2003 to 66.9 billion euros in 2013 and 105.6 billion euros in 2023. Meanwhile, German imports from China increased from 25.7 billion euros in 2003 to 74.5 billion euros in 2013 and 156.8 billion euros in 2023.

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel's contribution to strengthening Sino-German relations was undoubtedly catalytic. Her successor, Olaf Scholz, also values China's role, despite facing unprecedented challenges since his election in 2021, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. In November 2022, Scholz became the first European politician to travel to China after the pandemic. And a few days ago, he concluded another successful visit.

Sino-German consultations are multifaceted, and the dynamism and innovative potential of the Chinese market are reflected in the continuous appetite of German companies to expand their presence. In a remarkable recent case, German chemical giant BASF signed a 25-year agreement with China Energy Engineering Group Guangdong Electric Power Design Institute Co (GEDI) to purchase renewable electricity for its Zhanjiang Verbund site. Upon completion, this site will not only be the third largest for BASF, after Ludwigshafen in Germany and Antwerp in Belgium, but it will also be grounded in joint Sino-German low-carbon initiatives.

China and Germany are closely collaborating in the energy transition. From 2007 to 2023, the bilateral energy partnership institutionalized political, economic, regulatory, and technological exchanges. Further to this, in June 2023, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to launch a climate and transformation dialogue. The document clearly outlined their responsibility to take climate action and achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement. Examples of synergies can be found in both China and Germany. For instance, Chinese enterprise Sungrow Power Supply has provided inverters for the realization of the Weesow-Willmersdorf solar park on the outskirts of Berlin.

Beyond pure economic interests, cultural exchanges play a significant role in Sino-German relations. During his three-day visit to China, Chancellor Scholz visited the Goethe-Institut in Beijing, the first foreign cultural center established in the country in 1988. Currently, approximately 140,000 people are learning German in China, and the Goethe-Institut aims to enrich its mission and build new partnerships. The German leader also held meetings with representatives of the Chinese cultural sphere to elevate bilateral cooperation in this field.

According to Chancellor Scholz, he "found a pragmatic environment" in China, and the talks between the delegations were generally positive. By maintaining open channels of communication, Berlin and Beijing can better coordinate their policies, even on areas of disagreement. The positive political momentum can facilitate people-to-people exchanges, and tourism flows are expected to fully recover in the short and medium term. German tourists, in particular, can currently benefit from a convenient visa-free scheme that allows them to travel to China and stay for up to two weeks.

The Sino-German paradigm can move Sino-European relations forward. Despite misunderstandings and some divergences, there is a common will to find a joint way forward. Recently, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte paid a visit to China. Additionally, this is a special year for Sino-French relations as the two countries are celebrating the 60th anniversary of their diplomatic ties. The more Sino-European relations are stabilized, the more common prosperity will be cemented.

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