Fact Box

Level: 9.913

Tokens: 802

Types: 403

TTR: 0.502

Building on progress


China and Germany have set a good example of how countries can communicate and work together

The diplomatic relations between Germany and China, which have existed for 50 years, form the basis and framework for a history of success. Yet relations between China and Germany are much older. I am thinking of exchanges of knowledge about each other associated with the Jesuit Adam Schall von Bell in the early 17th century. I am thinking of the trade relations associated with the Hamburg-China trade in the first half of the 18th century. I am thinking of the relations between Prussia and China. At that time, Karl Marx published his work, which laid the foundation for the founding of the Communist Party of China in 1921. Germany was one of the colonial powers in China. But after World War I, equal cooperation developed between China and Germany, even in the military field. Zhou Enlai and Zhu De studied in Germany. Soong Ching Ling, Sun Yat-sen's widow, stayed in Germany from 1928 to 1931, and in 1933 as president of the Chinese League for Human Rights she protested against the crimes of the German Nazis.

History offers us many clues to the foundations and comprehensive nature of Sino-German relations. Great geographical distances, different cultures and experiences, even fundamental differences in political and legal systems should be understood as a challenge and thus an invitation to talk.

China and Germany have practiced this successfully over the last 50 years. Of course, there have been and still are very difficult phases and massive setbacks. But the course of understanding, exchange and deepening of relations has been successful for both countries. This is all the more true in light of the current challenges.

Five decades of cooperation between China and Germany are an excellent reason to praise the progress while asking how we can use and build on this experience in the future. Our two countries have several things in common, can accomplish much, but face great challenges.

Global challenges do not ask for differences in political systems. Global challenges require joint responses from all countries and economies; they require contributions of sciences, social organizations and citizens. For years, the challenge of climate change has become increasingly urgent. China and Germany are moving toward a common goal: China wants to be climate neutral before 2060, Germany by 2045. These goals are ambitious. China is a leader in the expansion of renewable energies. We should jointly consider whether it is possible to make even faster progress -- in our countries and in cooperation with other countries, including those on other continents. Both our nations and peoples are struggling with the ongoing climate change which threatens food and agriculture, economy, cities and everything. I hope that we could better share and make use of our scientific knowledge, innovative competence and economic strength in order to contribute jointly to a better world.

Currently, new challenges have been added to those existing before. Among them are the Russia's attack on Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic. China and Germany are solid advocates for the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (first agreed upon by China and India in 1954, and adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1957).Among those principles are territorial integrity, national sovereignty and non-interference in domestic affairs. Based on these Five Principles, Germany and China together will contribute to end this war I trust.

Chinese President Xi Jinping stated clearly that China strictly opposes any use of, or even threat to use nuclear weapons in the context of that war. From my point of view, the meeting of President Xi and Chancellor Olaf Scholz was decisive to strengthen mutual trust, deepen the understanding of both countries and their respective politics to create a promising perspective for both nations in a more peaceful world.

All of these challenges highlight how vulnerable our world is. The hope is that responsible and decisive political leadership will strengthen global cooperation. Germany and China, Europe and China are indispensable for this.

When China and Germany established diplomatic relations in 1972, the world was different, divided into two blocs. Our countries were also different: China plagued by the "cultural revolution" which ended in 1976;Germany plagued by the division of the nation into two states which ended in 1989. Despite these massive pressures, the governments at that time found a way to exchange and communicate. This is more than a memory -- it is an obligation.

The author is former defense minister of Germany and CEO and founder of Germany-based RSBK AG. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Contact the editor at editor@chinawatch.cn