Foreign and Military Affairs

Beijing plans major talks with Berlin

Updated: 2011-06-18 07:34

By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)

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BEIJING - China plans to hold unprecedented government talks with Germany, in which more than 20 ministers from both sides will take part, when Premier Wen Jiabao visits Beijing's largest trading partner in the eurozone later this month.

The number of officials present will make the event far larger than China's strategic and economic dialogues with the US have been.

Besides strengthening important business ties, experts said the talks will help to dispel the German media's misunderstand of Beijing, which perhaps became most evident during the torch-relay ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

"The meeting will be a rather big one," Vice-Foreign Minister Fu Ying said at a press conference on Friday on Wen's visit to Europe.

"So far we haven't got the final list, (but) it's estimated that more than 10 ministers from each side will attend."

The meeting will be the first government talk of this type between China and Germany. Berlin calls it a "cabinet dialogue".

Wen is to pay official visits to Hungary, the United Kingdom and Germany from June 24 to 28.

Beijing has already established a strategic and economic dialogue with Washington, but it only deals with foreign affairs, commerce and national defense.

Despite the fairly small size, the dialogue involves a Chinese vice-premier and is of greater importance.

Fu, the former Chinese ambassador to the UK, said Beijing expects the meeting to be a step toward more cooperation, as well as a "guide and plan for bilateral cooperation as a whole" in the future.

She said the discussion itself shows China's good attitude and that Beijing's relations with Berlin are already quite close.

Bilateral trade between China and Germany came to $142.4 billion in 2010, rising 34.8 percent year-on-year, despite the economic downturn in Europe.

The figure is almost equal to the total value of China's trade with the UK, France and Italy.

When preparing for the visit, Fu said she was very aware of the German media's criticism of China.

"Criticism should not aim at hurting others but at making them better. It should not be vilification," she said, adding that unfair criticism will tarnish the reputations of the German media and Germany in China.

Cui Hongjian, an expert on European studies with the China Institute of International Studies, said the two countries attach tremendous importance to their relationship because they find many similarities in each other, aside from having important interests in common.

"There is a saying that Germany is another China in Europe," he said. "The two countries share a lot in common on both international and domestic affairs."

Compared with other European Union nations, Germany has taken a stance that is closer to China's on the unrest in Libya, disagreeing about the need for foreign military intervention in the country. That position has brought Berlin under pressure within the EU.

Gu Junli, a scholar on German studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the government talks will prove important to the development plans of both countries as well as to their relationship.

"It also sets a good example for China's relations with other European countries," he said.

As for some German media reports on China, Gu said the political sentiments of many Germans have not caught up with the economic cooperation between Berlin and Beijing.

The government talks offer an opportunity to improve the situation, he said.

Fu Ying also expressed concern over the debt troubles now shaking the eurozone.

"Whether some European countries can overcome their difficulties and recover from the crisis is of crucial importance for China," Fu said.

"Since the advent of the financial troubles, China has on one hand been trying to stimulate our economy and overcome the effects of the crisis, and, on the other hand, has been providing support to European countries in their efforts to overcome the troubles," she said.

Wei Ran and Yang Yating contributed to this story.

China Daily

(China Daily 06/18/2011 page7)



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