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Xi's German visit to define Sino-EU ties

2014-03-28 08:45 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

The relationship between China and Germany will lead China's ties with the European Union, analysts said, as Chinese President Xi Jinping kicks off his first visit to Germany as president on Friday.  [Special coverage]

Xi's two-day visit is also the first time a Chinese president has visited Germany in the past eight years.

Xi will meet with German President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Angela Merkel and deliver a speech on China's role in the world.

The Chinese leader's in-depth exchange with German leaders will define the strategic direction for the development of bilateral ties, Sun Keqin, a research fellow with the Institute of European Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times, noting that Sino-German relations now stand at their peak.

This year will see frequent visits between high-level leaders of the two countries as German leaders including Merkel and the foreign minister will come to China later this year and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will lead a delegation to Germany for inter-governmental negotiations.

"Such negotiations are the highest-level that China has with the West and are also a rare thing for Germany, which can be seen as characteristic of these bilateral ties," Sun said.

As Germany stands out as a leading country in the EU following the bloc's euro crisis, sound Sino-German relations will have extensive positive spillover effects and dominate China's relationship with the EU as a whole, Gu Xuewu, director of the Center for Global Studies of Bonn University, told the Global Times.

China and Germany also enjoy deep trust on political issues, trade and investment, Gu said. In 2013, trade between China and Germany reached $161.6 billion, accounting for nearly one-third of China's trade with the EU.

While geopolitically China's relationship with the US and Russia are the most important, economically Sino-German ties are second only to Sino-US relations, Gu said.

However, trade volume between China and Japan is bigger than that between China and Germany.

Based on the emerging economic symbiosis between China and Germany, a "new special relationship" is developing, Hans Kundnani, research director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, and Jonas Parello-Plesner, a senior policy fellow at the same institution, said in a report. They added that such a relationship also matters for Europe and should be developed into a "real" European strategic partnership with China.

An important topic that Xi will bring up with German leaders is in what way Germany can support the multiple reforms that the Chinese government is endeavoring to push forward after a key Party plenum last year, German Ambassador to China Michael Clauss said during an interview with The Beijing News published on Thursday.

The two countries have a lot to cooperate on in China's urbanization drive as Germany is experienced in developing urbanization and related industries such as public transport, new energy and waste disposal, from which German enterprises can also see many business opportunities, Gu said.

Besides, Germany is also interested in joining China's western development programs and provide its abundant experience in institutional improvements to China's building of the rule of law, he added.

Sun noted that China can also learn from Germany's occupational training system that values expertise.

Another important topic is to set up an offshore yuan trading center, on which progress is expected during Xi's visit, according to Clauss.

On Saturday, Xi will pay a brief visit to Duisburg in North Rhine-Westphalia to wait for the arrival of a train loaded with IT products that traveled 16 days from Southwest China's Chongqing, reported Deutsche Welle. In North Rhine-Westphalia, there are over 800 Chinese enterprises in operation.

Despite close economic ties, cooperation between the two sides is not without friction.

Germany is dissatisfied with China's limited market access for German investors and inadequate intellectual property protection, as German companies are active in technology transfer but often find their profitable opportunities lost due to copycats, Gu said.

However, these are normal frictions in the development of economic cooperation and are under control, Sun said, adding that Germany's role in helping solve the EU's anti-dumping investigation into China's photovoltaic products can serve as a good model in addressing similar issues in the future.

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