Germany and China

Strategic Partners or Global Competitors?

China Biggest Freighter world Source Joern Pollex dpa
China's CSCL Globe, one of the world's biggest container ships, docks in Hamburg in January. Source. Jörn Pollex/ dpa
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany’s mid-sized companies believe bilateral economic relations are tilted in China’s favor.

  • Facts


    • Chancellor Merkel’s trip will coincide with the fifth plenum, where the Communist Party makes its next five-year plan.
    • China has begun opening more sectors of its economy to foreign investment, but German companies complain they are still not being treated the same as Chinese businesses.
    • China plans to surpass industrial powers like Germany through a three-stage strategy that ends in 2049.
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Chinese companies want German technology, and German companies want easier access to the Chinese market. This is the core premise of the “innovation partnership,” launched by Germany’s and China’s political leaders in Berlin. Not much progress had been made since then.

When Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Beijing on Wednesday, she’ll be looking for ways to move the stalled Germany-China partnership forward.

Lack of trust has been one of the biggest obstacles. The mid-sized companies that form the backbone of the German economy are skeptical of China’s intentions, according to Hubert Lienhard, who will lead the business delegation during Ms. Merkel’s trip.

“For mid-sized companies, intellectual property is the basis of their existence,” Mr. Lienhard, head of the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business, told Handelsblatt. “When it comes to the innovation partnership, there’s understandable concern that this property will be lost.”

In May, Beijing unveiled a new economic plan called “made in China 2025.” The People’s Republic plans in three phases to become a leading industrial nation by 2049. In private, German executives express concern that transferring technological know-how to China only strengthens tomorrow’s competition.

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