BEIJING – Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel began Friday her official visit to China with an aim of strengthening bilateral relations.
Merkel recently spoke over phone with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang during which she conveyed Berlin’s interest to continue strengthening bilateral cooperation, according to Chinese state-owned news agency Xinhua.
Merkel said that Germany hoped her visit would demonstrate that both countries maintain sustained momentum in the development of bilateral ties, especially in the face of the “current complicated international situation.”
Li welcomed Merkel’s visit to China, and said the two countries faced “many common challenges” against the backdrop of “profound and complex” changes at the international level.
The Chinese prime minister expressed his country’s willingness to work with Germany on issues such as strengthening mutual trust and cooperation at all levels, defending multilateralism and free trade, as well as “sustained and healthy” development of bilateral relations.
Xinhua added that the two sides “also exchanged views on issues of common interest,” but did not provide further details.
One such issue could be the situation in Hong Kong, rocked by mass protests since June.
Hong Kong pro-democracy activists had urged Merkel, in a letter published earlier this week in the German tabloid newspaper Bild, to support them before the government in Beijing that they referred to as a dictatorial power.
In the meantime, the state media in China made no reference to the possibility of Merkel discussing this issue, but only stressed on the positive effects of relations with Germany and the advancement of trade and investment ties.
According to the director of the European Department at the China Institute of International Studies, Cui Hongjian, the relationship between China and Germany was beneficial not only to the two countries but also their respective regions and, eventually, the entire world.
“China also regards itself as a very, very strong supporter to any kind of multilateral cooperation. And now we can find that for China and Germany, not only we got a lot of the achievements of cooperation on the bilateral level, and also this cooperation between the two countries has very, very strong spillover effects on regional level, for example, the China-European Union cooperation, and also global level,” Cui told public broadcaster CGTN.
The Ministry of Commerce highlighted on Thursday that new German investment in China shot up by 62.7 percent in the first seven months of the year, reaching $1.17 billion.
During this period, Chinese investment in Germany rose by 27.6 percent to $1.01 billion.
The ministry’s spokesperson, Gao Feng, stressed that, until July, bilateral trade had increased by 2.4 percent to $107 billion.
Gao recalled that in 2018 exchanges between the two economic powers touched a record $183.9 billion, having logged an increase of 9.4 percent compared to the previous year.
China has been Germany’s main trading partner for three consecutive years, said the spokesperson, adding that the Asian country was “one of the most favorite investment destinations” for German firms.
During the first day of her official visit, which extends until Saturday, Merkel will hold a meeting with Li and attend a dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The German leader traveled Thursday to China, accompanied by a high-level business delegation, according to the chancellor’s official website.
Merkel will attend the meeting of the Advisory Committee on German-Chinese Business and the closing session of the German-Chinese Dialogue Forum.
She will also visit the Beijing office of ZF-Powertrain, owned by the German conglomerate ZF.
On Saturday, Merkel will fly to Wuhan, where she will meet with students from Huazhong University, as well as representatives of the provincial government, besides visiting the German-Chinese friendship hospital in Tongji, followed by a tour of the firm, Webasto.