Consensus Keeps Sino-German Ties on Track, October 29, 2015. | 作者: Cui Hongjian | 时间: 2015-10-30 | 责编: Wang Jiapei
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Cui Hongjian


German Chancellor Angela Merkel kicks off her eighth China visit Thursday. The closeness of Sino-German ties is reflected by the frequency of her visits.

This year marks the year of cooperation in innovation between the two countries. Both China and Germany have raised a number of cooperative projects and plans, including the connection between the German-initiated "Industry 4.0" and the Beijing-led "Made in China 2025."

Since both are manufacturing countries, and China's manufacturing could learn a lot from Germany's, the close link between the two nations in this field is hard for other countries to imitate.

However, when it comes to specific collaboration between "Industry 4.0" and "Made in China 2025," there has been no major sign of progress. Berlin hopes to further expand its market in China via this program, paving way for its competitive projects. Yet in terms of joint development and manufacturing, and jointly exploring third-party markets, nothing much has been done. It is thus hoped that Merkel can bring some genuine proposal or development this time.

Merkel comes right after Chinese President
Xi Jinping visited the UK. French President Francois Hollande has also announced he will come to Beijing earlier next month. This autumn seems to be a Sino-European diplomatic season. The frequent interactions among heads of states from China and the Europe will create a positive effect for other countries.

Some argued that why Beijing and London moved rapidly closer is because of the strong ties between China and Germany in recent years. The reason is simple. Although the Chinese market is huge, it is limited. In spite of trade cooperation, European countries are naturally competitors when facing the market in China. Therefore, such competition will push EU members to come up with more efforts to collaborate with Beijing.

For example, Germany will find it hard to make big breakthroughs in financial cooperation with China, given the great potential of financial joint programs between China and Britain. After all, there is only one city of London, one of the oldest global financial hubs. Moreover, the UK has its own currency, the pound, whereas Germany shares the Euro. Thus, due to its own limitations, Berlin has to find another way to attract Chinese investment and cooperation.

That said, although the Sino-German relationship is at a historic best for now, certain concerns are in need for consideration, in order to keep the momentum and prevent the potential bumps on the road.

First of all, there are many similarities in both countries. Both are manufacturing nations and major trading powers. They share similar industrial structures and positions in international trade. This means that we can easily cooperate with each other, yet meanwhile, there is bound to be inevitable competition between the two.

In addition, Germany is playing an increasingly significant role in Europe, and it wants to become a spokesperson or representative of the EU.

Such a role will impose restrictions on its relations with China. If it places high expectations on itself over EU affairs, no one can guarantee that it won't take the lead in making a fuss over trite divergences between Europe and China, such as on human rights or the South China Sea issue. If so, it will inevitably have a negative impact on Sino-German ties.

Yet for the moment, there is indeed substantial cooperation between the two countries, and China does need Germany when it comes to upgrading manufacturing as well as technical innovation.

As long as Germany can stick to the existing common consensus with China, and properly deal with the possible issues that could endanger the bilateral ties, while bring its advantages into full play, the golden decade of Sino-German relations will be certain to continue.




The author is director of the Department for European Studies, China Institute of International Studies.

Source:, October 29, 2015.