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Merkel leads delegation to China

July 6, 2014

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is at the beginning of a trip to China - her seventh as chancellor. With business ties at the forefront, the chancellor will express any human rights concerns only behind closed doors.

Angela Merkel in China 7.7.2014
Image: Reuters

After a photo-op stop Sunday at a spice market in Chengdu where Merkel bought a few tasty souvenirs and had a go at preparing Kung Pao chicken, the German chancellor wrapped up her first day in China with a banquet in Beijing, dining with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

The trip to China is Merkel's seventh as chancellor and as is the custom, she is traveling with a large delegation of German businesspeople. Reports in German media suggest representatives from Siemens, Volkswagen, Airbus, Lufthansa, and Deutsche Bank are in tow.

"It is fair to say that China-Germany relations are at their best in history," China's state-run Xinhua news agency said in a commentary on Sunday.

After the European Union as a whole, China is Germany's third-largest trading partner, behind the US at number two. In 2013, German companies sold goods worth 67 billion euros ($91 billion) to the Asian giant. Imports from China totaled more than 73 billion euros.

Closed-door discussions

The question of human rights in China is likely to play a secondary role, though government sources have said Merkel will discuss the topic both with Li and President Xi Jinping, whom she is to meet on Monday in Beijing.

German officials have argued that closed-door discussions can be more effective in China than open reprimands.

"German-Chinese relations offer many possibilities for exchange for all the differences of opinion," Merkel said upon her arrival in Beijing.

Merkel is expected to hold a joint press conference on Monday with Li and will also attend the China-Germany Economic and Trade Commission before meeting President Xi Jinping.

On Tuesday she is scheduled to hold a talk at Beijing's Tsinghua University before departing for Berlin.

mz,tj/slk (AFP, dpa)