German Chancellor Angela Merkel has begun her visit to China. Her talks with Chinese leaders focused on closer cooperation. Both countries indicated their willingness to develop a comprehensive "strategic partnership".
Angela Merkel and Wen Jiabao seem to get on well despite differences
The German chancellor received a warm reception in Beijing on Friday. Due to the hot and sticky weather, and possibly the smog in Beijing, the ceremonials including a guard of honor were shifted inside the Great Hall of the People.
The Chinese leaders went to great lengths to treat Angela Merkel cordially. Premier Wen Jiabao devoted a considerable amount of time to the chancellor. Afterwards, during their common press briefing, both sides stressed their desire for close cooperation.
Angela Merkel inspects the guard of honor in Beijing
Regular annual meetings planned
"We can raise our relationship to an unprecedented level," Angela Merkel said. "We have a strategic partnership that we are going to further expand in future. I think it is good and important that we express this by having regular consultations between the heads of government of both countries. From now on, we'll hold these once a year."
Wen Jiabao also praised bilateral ties, particularly the economic ties which are the main focus of Merkel's current visit. Among the deals signed in her presence was an agreement between Germany's automotive group Daimler and China's Foton Motor, who plan to jointly produce heavy trucks in China.
Volkswagen has sold almost a million cars in China in the first half of 2010
"The German-Chinese ties have passed the test of the international financial crisis," Premier Wen said and added that both countries had coordinated their reactions to the crisis very well.
Merkel urges China to open markets
But the German Chancellor also had a few critical words to say. Merkel urged China to grant German companies better access to the Chinese market and to clamp down on product piracy.
"I have pointed out that we don't want barriers for foreign investors in China, and that we'll continue our long-standing discussions about protecting intellectual property."
Merkel also rejected Chinese calls for EU market economy status, which would facilitate Chinese exports to Europe. She said Beijing had not fulfilled all the criteria yet, notably in the field of intellectual property rights.
Friendly atmosphere despite differences
Certain differences also surfaced during the German-Chinese dialogue forum on Friday morning, when the role of the media was discussed. Angela Merkel emphasized the media's responsibility to disseminate information and to criticize while Premier Wen Jiabao clearly saw the role of the media quite differently: as a servant of the government.
China had protested when Merkel received the Dalai Lama in Berlin in 2007
"The media should report more about the positive sides of German-Chinese friendship and cooperation", and about interaction between young people, Wen said, arguing that this would benefit both countries and the whole world.
But such differences aside, Merkel and Wen clearly have established a considerable amount of common ground. As a gesture of this friendship, the premier is set to accompany the chancellor to the historic western city of Xi'an, where Merkel plans to visit the excavation site of the world-famous Terracotta warriors on Saturday.
Author: Ruth Kirchner / tb
Editor: Grahame Lucas