From local governments to the federal government, recent intensive visits to China by German politicians have sent a signal.

City walks in Chongqing and Shanghai, meetings with representatives of German companies in China… German Chancellor Scholz’s second visit to China in a year and a half is very fulfilling.

In fact, during Scholz’s visit to China from the 14th to the 16th, a delegation from Germany’s largest opposition party, the Christian Democratic Union, also visited China at almost the same time. On the 15th, Jens Spahn, the CDU’s vice president for economic policy and climate issues, led a party delegation to visit China and conduct five days of activities in China.

Earlier in late March, Markus Söder, governor of the German state of Bavaria and chairman of the Christian Social Union, also led a delegation to visit China, seeking to expand economic ties between Bavaria and China.

From the federal to the local level, what signals are sent by the recent intensive visits of German politicians to China? Professor Wu Huiping, deputy director of the German Studies Center at Tongji University, told China Business News that the series of high-level visits reflects the importance Germany attaches to Sino-German cooperation. “Although Germany took the lead in 2019 to throw out the position of an institutional rival in its relations with China, it still emphasized that While de-risking and diversifying, the German political and business circles are still trying to find a balance and continue to look for space for cooperation with China. This seems to be consistent with the German political and business circles.”
Attach importance to continued dealings with China

Scholz’s visit to China is his longest overseas visit since he became German Chancellor. Wu Huiping said that Scholz’s visit covered three major megacities in China. “In Chongqing and Shanghai, Scholz gained a more comprehensive understanding of the urban development of the two places through Citywalk. Especially during his stay in Chongqing, he also compared the similarities and differences between Chongqing and Hamburg, Germany, where he previously served as mayor, in detail with architects. “Wu Huiping said that judging from feedback from the German media, the combined population of the three major cities in China visited by Scholz is equivalent to the population of Germany. “From this point of view alone, China’s influence in the world can be guaranteed. , Sino-German cooperation is crucial.”

In addition, Wu Huiping believes that by visiting companies, Scholz also learned about Sino-German cooperation, especially the development of the field of innovation. “The three-day trip allowed Scholz to understand China’s urban development, innovation, green environmental protection, higher education, etc. I have an intuitive impression of the current situation in the field and Sino-German cooperation.”

Following Scholz’s schedule, Spahn’s visit to China is still in progress. He told the media on the sidelines of his visit to China that China is one of Germany’s most important trading partners and supports China and Germany in maintaining comprehensive dialogue in multiple fields. However, he is worried about the Scholz government’s current inability to revive the German economy, and even believes that , the current weak economy in Germany will make Chinese companies not interested in investing in Germany.

Public information shows that Spahn was the Parliamentary State Secretary of the German Ministry of Finance, responsible for supervising the German government’s annual budget, and also represented Germany in the EU’s annual budget negotiations. During former German Chancellor Merkel’s fourth term (2018-2021), Spahn served as Minister of Health.

Söder, who was the first to visit China in late March, is from Bavaria. He is also the first German governor to visit China after the epidemic. Bavaria is known as the “home of Germany’s big companies” and is one of the states with the strongest economic strength in Germany. Siemens, BMW, Audi, etc. are all from the state; Google, Huawei, Apple, etc. have all set up development centers in Munich, the state capital. Public data shows that China is Bavaria’s largest and most important trading partner in the world. In 2023, the trade volume between the two sides will reach 53 billion euros, Bavaria’s exports to China will reach 17 billion euros, and its imports from China will be nearly 36 billion euros. Regarding Sino-German relations, Söder said during his visit to China that maintaining dialogue channels is much more important than “talking to oneself.”

Regarding the recent visits to China by German politicians, Wu Huiping believes that Europe itself is currently facing many variables. Germany hopes to seek diversified development and find more partners, but this also means that Germany maintains a huge influence in various fields. It is impossible for a powerful China to interrupt bilateral exchanges, but to tap more potential for cooperation. “No matter which political party in Germany, they attach great importance to how to maintain contact with China and how to continue to deal with China.”

The future of Sino-German economic and trade cooperation

Seeking to strengthen economic and trade cooperation with China is an unavoidable topic when German politicians visit China. Under the argument of “risk removal” in Germany and even Europe, Sino-German trade is still growing strongly. A report from the German Economic Institute shows that Germany’s total direct investment in China will reach a record high of 11.9 billion euros in 2023, an increase of 4.3% over the previous year. In 2023, German investment in China will account for 10.3% of total German overseas investment, the highest level since 2014. According to data from the German Federal Statistics Office, the bilateral trade volume between China and Germany in 2023 will be 253.1 billion euros. Since 2016, China has been Germany’s largest trading partner for eight consecutive years.

Maximilian Foerst, President and CEO of Zeiss Greater China, was deeply touched by this. As a member of Scholz’s China delegation, Foster told China Business News that China has remained Germany’s most important trading partner for eight consecutive years, demonstrating the depth and potential of bilateral cooperation. “For Zeiss, In other words, China has become the Group’s largest single market in the world. Since entering the Chinese market in 1957, Zeiss has been committed to leveraging its global technological advantages and promoting China’s economic development and technological progress through diversified solutions. The chemical business is highly consistent with the key directions of China’s development policies and has also helped it achieve steady growth in China and made key contributions to the group as a whole.”

Based on China’s Yangtze River Delta and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Zeiss continues to increase investment in China. Foster said that just last month, Zeiss’ largest quality excellence center in China was completed in Dongguan, Guangdong, aiming to help customers meet higher safety and quality requirements through professional capabilities in the field of industrial quality solutions.

As a representative of Chinese auto parts companies, Wang Jianfeng, chairman of Joyson Group, attended the high-level meeting between the Chinese and German Prime Ministers held in Beijing. Currently, Joyson Group has multiple R&D and production bases in Germany, and it also has long-term and close cooperation with German and European car companies in the global market. From airbags, smart steering wheels, to smart cockpits, smart connectivity and other areas of automotive intelligence, Joyson Group’s cooperation with German car companies has been comprehensive and deepening for more than 20 years.

Regarding the future of Sino-German economic and trade cooperation, Wu Huiping believes that, for example, in terms of transportation digitization and infrastructure, China and Germany still have many areas that can be explored; the same is true in the field of climate protection. Previously, Scholz advocated the establishment of an international climate club. According to his vision, This club is open and not limited to the Group of Seven. In terms of agriculture, ecological agriculture, sustainable development, and jointly ensuring food security are all things that can be continued to be promoted in the bilateral or global governance fields between China and Germany.

Dr. Florian Herrmann, Cabinet Minister of the German state of Bavaria, said during a previous visit to China that he hoped that German small and medium-sized enterprises, especially innovative hidden champion companies, could carry out deeper cooperation with China in the future. “In the international market, we must If we want the global economy to continue to develop, we must work together to ensure that we are in a level playing field. We are interdependent. Germany has many technologically advanced family businesses, and cooperation between such enterprises and China should be strengthened.”

In Foster’s view, China will remain an important contributor to global economic growth in the next five years. “We are confident in our business and investment in China.” At the same time, Foster believes that China is still the main driving force in shaping future technology and innovation trends, leading the world in digital transformation, new energy vehicles, clean energy, artificial intelligence, health care and other fields. “In 2024, China will It is proposed to develop “new productive forces” driven by innovation and accelerate high-quality economic transformation, and Zeiss’s investment focus in China coincides with China’s important strategic plan.”

Wu Huiping believes that despite the current complexity of Sino-German relations, the consensus to continue and deepen economic and trade cooperation will prompt more representatives of the German political and business circles to personally visit China and conduct on-the-spot inspections of cooperation projects in China in the future.

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