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China's Xi Jinping in Berlin to talk pandas, missiles, trade ahead of G20

China's President Xi Jinping was greeted with full military honors when he arrived in Berlin. Talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel focused on cooperation ahead of a visit to the zoo to welcome two pandas sent from China.

The two leaders visited Berlin Zoo to see the pandas Meng Meng (Sweet Dream) and Jiao Qing (Darling), and give them an official hello to the city.

"I am convinced that these two can become new ambassadors of our friendship," President Xi Jinping said.

The animals appeared unfazed by their high-profile visitors, choosing to chew on bamboo as a curtain was drawn back to officially unveil them to the public. The pandas, which arrived in Germany in June, will go on show to the general public on Thursday after being given time to adapt to their new surroundings.

Berlin Panda Meng Meng

Meng Meng, and his pal Jaio Qing, have had a couple of weeks to adapt to their new life

"We have achieved a lot concerning economic and social issues and also in terms of contact between our people. We will keep working on it. And now we have two very charming ambassadors here, the panda bears. I think that Jiao Qeng and Meng Meng are going to be very special ambassadors for our countries, and hopefully delight many people," said Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The loan of the pandas to Germany, which will pay about 1 million euros per year to host the bears, is seen as a special gesture. "For China these bears are nearly holy, there aren't a lot of them and they're very very rare," said DW's chief political correspondent Melinda Crane. "Certainly it is a sign of deep friendship."

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had greeted the Chinese president with military honors Wednesday at the start of a short but highly significant visit.

Xi then went on to his meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said it was a "good opportunity" to expand relations between Germany and China before what she called difficult negotiations coming up at the G20 summit later in the week. She said the two countries could help calm the "unrest in the world."

Opening of markets

Speaking after their morning meeting, Merkel said she would like to see a mutual opening of markets and wanted a quick signing of an investment treaty which could one day lead to a full free-trade agreement with China. Germany wants to be treated equally on business matters and granted market access, Merkel said, adding: "That is very important for our companies."

She said that there were options for deepening cooperation with China on fighting international terrorism and that cooperation with China in third countries in Africa and Afghanistan was a possibility. Merkel said that an agreement to jointly build a hydroelectric power station in Angola had just been signed. 

Merkel also raised the issue of human rights in China. She said discussions on civil society with Xi had been held and that a human rights dialogue must be continued. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping with Chancellor Angela Merkel

Chinese President Xi Jinping with Chancellor Angela Merkel

International issues

The meeting came within the context of a changed US administration and Tuesday's missile test in North Korea.

Writing in the German daily Die Welt on Tuesday, Xi called for an intensification of ties and for China and Germany to assume responsibility for peace, stability and prosperity.

Merkel had previously described Wednesday's meeting as pure "coordination" as she is known to prefer a broader global alliance for Germany on issues such as climate, trade and African development.

Presidents Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Xi Jinping

Presidents Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Xi Jinping

Although neither leader mentioned pro-democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo in their comments, there was an announcement from Beijing on Wednesday. The Shenyang hospital treating Liu for cancer "will invite to China renowned international doctors from the EU, Germany and other countries" to join their medical team.

Merkel has also raised concerns over China's treatment of German businesses and efforts by Beijing to work individually with European states to further its economic aims.

One Belt, One Road

Germany has been trying to persuade China to make concessions on electric vehicle production. The Beijing government has set a target of 8 percent of automakers' sales to be battery electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2018, rising to 10 percent in 2019 and 12 percent in 2020. German carmakers have complained the targets are too much too soon.

China's multibillion infrastructure and development project that reaches across Asia to Europe and to Africa has also raised concerns in Europe.

China has announced it wants to share "growth, development and connectivity" and "collaborate more closely on concrete projects" with the EU. But EU leaders have raised concerns over adherence to market rules and international standards.

Cosco Shipping Panama am Hafen von Piraeus Griechenland (Imago)

COSCO's container ship Panama docked in Piraeus ahead of its voyage through the expanded Panama Canal

'16 + 1' in Europe

In 2012 China set up the "16+1" mechanism for annual meetings with the leaders of 16 countries, including EU members Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, the Baltic states and non-EU members Serbia, Albania, and Montenegro.

A number of projects under "16+1" are underway. They include the high-speed rail line from Belgrade, Serbia, to Budapest, Hungary, which is being built by one of China's top state-owned enterprises, and Athens' Piraeus Harbor, now controlled by the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), which is investing in it to become one of the largest container transit ports in Europe.

In 2016, Chinese foreign direct investments in the EU reached 35 billion euros ($39.6 billion,) a 77-percent increase over the previous year.

Watch video 04:12

China in focus as Germany's US ties waver

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