Former envoy to Germany recalls 'China hand' Helmut Schmidt

Updated: 2015-11-11 14:12


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Former envoy to Germany recalls 'China hand' Helmut Schmidt

Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt smiles after his speech at his 95th birthday party at a theater in Hamburg in this January 19, 2014 file photo. [Photo/Agencies]

Former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who died on Tuesday aged 96, was "a real China hand", said a former Chinese ambassador.

Ma Canrong, China's ex-envoy to Germany who spent most of his professional life in Germany, said Schmidt was a frank and assertive, steadfast and discerning man.

Ma was first dispatched to West Germany in 1973 and served there until 1981, a period that coincided with Schmidt's term of office from 1974 to 1982. Schmidt paid a state visit to China in 1975, and the trip made him the first German Chancellor to visit China since diplomatic relationship was established in 1972.

As a witness of the whole process of the establishment of Sino-German relationship, Ma said Schmidt supported China's reform and opening-up policy firmly and had long predicted the rapid development of China.

"He once said there will be three major international currencies in the world, the dollar, the euro and the RMB," Ma recalled.

Having developed a "good personal relationship" with Schmidt through the years, Ma said Schmidt remained influential in Germany and even in the world after his "chancellor time". German Chancellor Angela Merkel also praised Schmidt as a mastermind of international cooperation whose decisions continue to have an effect today.

"His advice and judgments were valued not only by his successors but also the public as he was such a magnetic speaker and eloquent debater," Ma said. "He was even called ‘Schmidt the Lip' in his early years."

"I went to him for advice and dedicated a chapter to him in my memoirs when my term as ambassador ended in 2009," Ma said.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said of Schmidt that he had lost a friend who had political courage. He said Schmidt, together with former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, had founded a European currency system and so paved the way for the euro, according to a report by Reuters.

"The history of this continent shaped him for almost a century and made him a committed European," Juncker was quoted as saying.