The talks between Germany and China have been unprecedented in their frankness. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German business sector spoke openly in Beijing about what they perceive are difficulties in dealing with China. So is Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
There is no need to worry that these frank exchanges could harm relations between the two countries. Quite the contrary: This new sincerity signals progress.
Usually Ms. Merkel’s China trips follow a set pattern. In The Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the chancellor and her Chinese hosts shower each other with fulsome praise. Criticism is articulated – if at all – tentatively and with care to maintain a spirit of harmony. Nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of the much-trumpeted partnership between Beijing and Berlin. All smiles and handshakes and then on to the next port of call.
But Ms. Merkel’s ninth visit to Beijing was different. Shortly after her arrival in the Chinese capital, the chancellor was awarded an honorary doctorate. Germany’s head of government made use of her thank-you speech to admonish the lack of access to markets and legal safeguards in China. An ill-mannered guest? No, just a chancellor who knows what she wants.