Key Cooperative Research Institute for Policy Studies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the P.R.C (2022-2024)

Liu Lirong,“Li Qiang in Germany: Dialogue and communication key to enhancing mutual trust”



Editor's note: Liu Lirong, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is an associate professor at the Institute of International Studies, Fudan University. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

At the invitation of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the French government, Chinese Premier Li Qiang is paying official visits to Germany and France from June 18 to 23. This is Li Qiang's first overseas visit since he became Chinese premier in March this year. Germany was chosen as the first stop, which shows the importance China attaches to its relations with Germany.

Li's visit comes at a time when the global situation is turbulent and the global economic recovery is sluggish. Influenced by the U.S. policy towards China, there have recently been some sharp voices in German political and economic circles on the China issue. Sino-German economic and trade cooperation has been one-sidedly interpreted as Germany's dependence on China, the value differences between China and Germany have been infinitely magnified, and political mutual trust between the two countries has cracked. Germany's domestic debates over its China policy have brought great uncertainty to the development of Sino-German relations.

Rational dialogue and pragmatic cooperation have been the basis for the development of Sino-German relations over the past five decades. Premier Li's visit to Germany is expected to release positive signals to German political and business circles.

Economic and trade relations are the foundation of Sino-German relations. Goods worth around $320 billion were traded between China and Germany in 2022, which was up 21 percent from 2021. Bilateral relations are of great significance to expanding access between two countries' markets and increasing their economic growth. In early June, during a meeting with a delegation from the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), Premier Li Qiang said that China would continue to liberalize market access, strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights and implement national treatment for foreign enterprises. The promotion of German exports to China and the strengthening of the German economic presence in China remain the main driving force behind Germany's development of bilateral relations.  

The keynote of Sino-German relations is cooperation. The two countries have established more than 70 cooperation dialogue mechanisms, and set up over 100 friendly provinces and cities. Bilateral cooperation has been continuously deepened in such areas as economy and trade, technologies, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, as well as green development.

The current international situation is turbulent and complex, and the multi-polarization of the world is an inevitable trend. China is the second largest economy in the world and Germany is the largest economy in the European Union. Both China and Germany are the forces to defend the international order. In addressing global challenges such as climate change and food security, Sino-German cooperation is of great importance, both now and in the future.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses participants at the 13th German Engineering Summit of the German Engineering Federation in Berlin, Germany, October 11, 2022. /CFP

China is willing to work with Germany to maintain the stability of the supply chain. The German government plans to implement a strategy of de-risking rather than decoupling from China, aiming to reduce its dependence on China through diversification. But the diversification that the German business circles are looking for is not about desinicization, but about taking advantage of the opportunities in the Chinese market and further expanding into Asia, Africa and Latin America. China and Germany are both beneficiaries of the global liberal economic order, and economic interdependence is a consequence of globalization. In an open economic system, how to ensure the security of the supply of energy and raw materials is a common concern for both countries. German Chancellor Scholz has also stated in the strategy that China's integration into world trade and world economic relations should not be impaired.

It is worth noting that high-level exchanges between China and Germany have been frequent recently. In November 2022, Scholz visited China, becoming the first leader of an EU country to visit China since the COVID-19 outbreak. The seventh China-Germany inter-governmental consultation will be held during Li Qiang's visit to Germany, which is the first time the newly formed governments of two countries interface with each other in such an all-around fashion. Since its establishment in 2010, the China-Germany government consultation mechanism has been a super engine for bilateral practical cooperation.

How to deal with the uncertainty brought about by great power competition and geopolitical games is the biggest challenge facing China-Germany relations at present. Dialogue and communication are conducive to enhancing political mutual trust and solving problems.