By Lu Qiutian
Confucius remarked: "At 30, I had planted my feet firm upon the
ground. At 40, I no longer suffered from perplexities." The
35-year-old relationship between China and Germany is now poised
between that process of maturing and being free from perplexity and
disorientation. Now it is time for us to take stock of the past,
chart the path for the future and open up a new vista for bilateral
The establishment of diplomatic relations between China and
Germany in 1972 marked the opening of a new chapter of bilateral
ties. Thirty-five years have passed and the two sides have forged a
partnership within the framework of the China-EU strategic
partnership, bearing global responsibilities. China is Germany's
most important trade partner in Asia, and Germany China's primary
trade companion in Europe.
In addition, the two countries' cooperation in the fields of
culture, education, science and technology, environmental
protection and legal affairs has yielded rich fruits.
Also, China and Germany have kept close consultation on many
important international issues, such as fighting terrorism, nuclear
non-proliferation and global climate change.
The Sino-German relationship is currently at its best, both in
scope and in depth.
Dramatic changes have taken place in the international arena
over the past 35 years, and both countries have traveled different
paths of development. However, China-Germany relations have
withstood the test of time and have progressed smoothly.
Several important factors help explain all this and are,
therefore, worth noting.
First, the importance the leaders of the two countries attach to
bilateral ties is a prerequisite for the development of Sino-German
The Chinese government has always approached Sino-German ties
from a strategic perspective, paid great attention to the important
position Germany occupies in Europe and in the world at large.
Meanwhile, the German government has also over the past 35 years
given priority to developing relations with China. As early as
1974, Helmut Schmidt, the first German chancellor to visit China,
said in Beijing that he viewed German-Chinese ties from the
perspective of grand world politics.
Following in his footsteps, Helmut Kohl visited China four times
and Gerhard Schroeder six during their tenures as chancellor. Their
actual deeds demonstrated that they cared very much about
Second, having a sound political foundation is indispensable to
the advancement of China-Germany relations. China always supported
Germany's reunification. Germany, for its part, has always stuck to
the "one-China" principle and has been supporting China's peaceful
reunification, opposing "Taiwan independence" and refraining from
approving arms sales to the island.
It is this kind of mutual understanding and mutual support on
matters involving both countries' core interests, such as
reunification, that have helped lay down the solid political
foundation for bilateral ties.
Third, the progress of Sino-German relations must be rooted in
pragmatic cooperation that benefits both sides. This kind of
cooperation takes farsightedness, wisdom and a pioneering spirit.
Volkswagen, for example, first entered the Chinese auto-making
market in the early 1980s and set up joint venture projects with
Inspired by the "Volkswagen spirit", China-German cooperation
has seen impressive accomplishments.
Evidence abounds. For instance, Germany is the first Western
developed country to sign a legal exchange pact with China. It has
helped set up joint science centers, recognizes China's
higher-education credentials and has opened its tourism market to
Chinese citizens. The maglev-train line jointly built by Germany
and China is the first commercially operated maglev line in the
In 2006, bilateral trade between the two countries hit US$78.2
billion, 286 times the amount in 1972 when diplomatic relations are
Such cooperation brings substantial benefits to the Chinese and
German people, installing a "safety valve" for the development of
Fourth, properly handling disputes is crucial to the progress of
Chinese-German bilateral ties.
The world is diverse, and no two leaves look exactly the same.
China and Germany have different points of view toward some issues,
owning to their widely different histories and experiences. This is
quite normal. But these disputes should not be allowed to become
obstacles to bilateral cooperation. Instead, the two sides should
reinforce communication and dialogue.
Experience shows that bilateral ties move ahead smoothly when
two countries properly handle their disputes through communication,
dialogue and cooperation, instead of moralizing, finger pointing
and confrontation. Otherwise, bilateral ties would suffer from
setbacks and be subject to twists and turns.
The China-Germany legal dialogue offers a good example for how
the two sides address their disputes over human rights issues, for
Humankind faces challenges posed by terrorism, proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction, global warming, energy and resource
shortages and infectious diseases.
China and Germany have great influence in their own regions and
in the world at large as well. We have no haunting problems left
over by history, nor conflicts of interest. Both countries are
pushing forward reform and developing their economies.
Internationally, China and Germany are both doing their best to
safeguard world peace and promote common development among
countries. In short, the two countries share a wide range of common
interests that constitute a solid foundation for the progress of
the China-Germany relations in future.
The author is the former Chinese ambassador to Germany. The
article is an excerpt from the speech he gave at the German-Chinese
Dialogue held last month.
(China Daily August 27, 2007)