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Merkel to Push China to Play Greater Diplomatic Role

DW staff (ncy)
May 20, 2006

Angela Merkel takes off for a 38-hour visit to China on Sunday. The chancellor is expected to press Beijing to take more global responsibility.

Iran and human rights are on Merkel's agendaImage: picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb

Angela Merkel will urge China to play a bigger role in resolving world conflicts, German officials said ahead of her first visit to China since taking office. In meetings with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao, Merkel will stress that China's role as an emerging economic superpower must be accompanied by an increased effort in international diplomacy.

"The economic role of China has grown and so has its responsibility on the international stage," an official told the news agency AFP, on condition of anonymity. "Based on its economic position, China must take on more responsibilities."

Germany would like to see China involved more closely in the international efforts to solve the Iranian nuclear crisis, for example. China, a veto power in the UN Security Council, has so far rejected threatening Iran with sanctions. Along with Britain, France and the United States, however, Germany is in favor of a harsher approach that might include sanctions.

"Tactful" on human rights

The issue of human rights will be raised "tactfully" with the Chinese leadership, officials said. Merkel's predecessors, Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schröder, avoided bringing up human rights using the rationale that publicly highlighting the problems wouldn't lead to positive results.

Steinmeier in China Verbotene Stadt in Peking
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier prepared the way for Merkel in FebruaryImage: picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb

Merkel will also meet with 91-year-old Catholic Bishop Aloysius Jin in Shanghai and make a case for religious freedom, Reuters reported.

During Merkel's visit, Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries will host a Chinese-German human rights forum set up by former Chancellor Schröder, a frequent visitor to China in his seven years in office. Representatives from a cross-section of Chinese society have been invited to attend a reception at the German embassy in Beijing.

Big business

Merkel will be accompanied by a 40-strong delegation of German business leaders and Economics Minister Michael Glos, reflecting China's role as Germany's biggest trading partner in Asia. Among the business deals expected to be finalized during the visit, Lufthansa is set to put the finishing touches on Air China's admission to the Star Alliance network of airlines.

German industry has called on Merkel to use her trip to step up the war against counterfeit goods, which cost global industry around 300 billion euros ($384 billion) a year.

Produktpiraterie in Peking China
Germany wants China to do more to prevent counterfeitingImage: AP

"The government must represent the interests of German industry more vigorously in China," said APM, the anti-piracy arm of the DIHK federation of chambers of commerce.

An agreement between German and Chinese textile industry representatives against product piracy that would punish companies that make counterfeit textiles is expected to be signed during Merkel's visit.

Germany pays China 65 million euros in development aid each year, despite the fact that the country has the world's fourth biggest economy. The German government justified the payments on the basis of the China's high level of poverty -- around 130 million people are said to live below the poverty level -- and that the money was focused on projects that sparked German investment, according to Reuters.