Learn to understand China like a child

  During her tenure as prime minister, Merkel “learned to understand China like a child.” Analysts pointed out that one of her political achievements is to respect China politically and cooperate with China economically. No matter who becomes German Chancellor, he will follow Merkel’s political line. Nothing can prevent Germany from establishing a partnership with China.
  On September 27, the German general election came to an end, and the German Social Democratic Party took a narrow lead over the current Chancellor Merkel’s coalition party. Merkel, who is no longer running for election, ended her 16-year career as prime minister, and the world will also usher in a new German government. On October 7, the German Social Democratic Party, the Green Party and the Liberal Democratic Party held their first exploratory meeting to form a cabinet.
   Looking back at Merkel’s 16-year term as prime minister, she has experienced 4 US presidents, 5 British prime ministers, and 9 Japanese prime ministers. She has experienced 4 major crises: financial crisis, refugee crisis, Brexit and the new crown pneumonia epidemic. She turned Germany from the “Sick Man of Europe” in 2005 into one of the pillars of the European economy in 2021 and an important force on the international stage, and guided Europe through major crises.
   Merkel is one of the few Western leaders who maintain a clear understanding of China, and has received positive comments. For Europe and the West as a whole, is the rise of China an opportunity or a challenge? Merkel gave a rational and rigorous answer.
  ”Learn to understand China like a child”
   In October 2008, German Chancellor Merkel came to China to attend the Asia-Europe Summit. During the visit, the entourage discovered that she could actually eat with chopsticks in one hand and speak with the microphone in the other. German media commented at the time that Merkel “learned to understand China like a child.”
   Prior to this, Sino-German relations had just gone through major ups and downs. In 2007, Merkel met with the Dalai Lama in the Chancellery in the name of “private exchanges”, which aroused strong dissatisfaction from the Chinese side and was criticized by former German Chancellor Schroeder and then Foreign Minister Steinmeier.
   Therefore, every second counts in Merkel’s visit to China. To some extent, it is a remedy for her past behavior. It was also from this visit that Merkel embarked on the road of “learning and self-criticism” on China’s issues. In Merkel’s words, she wants to understand China, such as knowing how China will react on a specific issue.
   In 2010, Merkel visited China again and spent her 56th birthday in China. This visit was a node where she changed her impression of China. At that time, she participated in a dinner hosted by the German Embassy in China and communicated with many Chinese provincial governors who came to Beijing to participate in the traveling exhibition of the Goethe-Institut. Merkel deliberately asked a question: “What do the governors think before going to bed? What do they think of after waking up?” The
   governors said that they were thinking about employment, migrant workers leaving their homes, and the stability of their areas. Unity and environmental issues, etc. Merkel was taken aback. She seldom had the opportunity to hear this. The answers from the governors brought her deeper thinking, which changed her impression of China.
  One of the most frequent interaction with China Western leaders
   Angela Merkel visited China 12 times in a 16-year term, is one of China’s most frequent interaction with Western leaders. She is very willing to learn about China, and her visit to China covers the whole country.
   In October 2015, Merkel visited a farmer in Shenfu Village, Daxu Town, Baohe District, Hefei City, Anhui Province, and chatted with local villagers. This arrangement was proposed by her, because the previous visits to China were in large cities in China, and this time she wanted to see the rural areas of China.
   During her visit to China in September 2019, when the convoy passed the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge, Merkel got off and looked at the beautiful scenery of the three towns beside the bridge and asked the staff to take pictures of her. This was the only time she deviated from the diplomatic protocol schedule.
   During her tenure as prime minister, Merkel has always regarded China as an important partner, and Sino-German relations have continued to move forward.
   In October 2008, the world was in the midst of a financial crisis. Merkel and Barroso, then President of the European Commission, attended the Asia-Europe Summit in Beijing to discuss strategies to cope with the crisis and collectively demonstrated confidence in coping with the crisis.
   In 2011, China and Germany established a government consultation mechanism, and the bilateral relationship was upgraded to an all-round strategic partnership in 2014.
   In recent years, bringing Chinese cooperation projects back to Germany has been an important agenda for Merkel’s visit. In May 2018, she visited Shenzhen and visited some companies in the fields of drones, autonomous driving, and data. Diplomats participating in the itinerary said that Merkel was very surprised by the speed of China’s high-tech development. Compared with the slow digitization process in Germany, she expressed envy while admiring her. She mentioned in her speech at the time: “Sino-German cooperation must be raised to a new level, especially from a digital perspective.” In
   2020, China has become Germany’s most important trading partner for the fifth consecutive year, ahead of the Netherlands and the United States. The bilateral trade volume is close to 213 billion euros.
  China’s attitude towards Germany beyond the level of a country’s
   Merkel’s attitude towards China is beyond the level of a country, Germany. In 2012, the European Commission launched an anti-dumping investigation against China’s photovoltaic industry. Merkel has always insisted on dialogue and negotiation to prevent the imposition of permanent tariffs on China. With the joint efforts of China and Germany, one year later, China and the EU reached a price commitment agreement on the photovoltaic trade dispute. This was called the largest friction in the history of Sino-European trade.
   In the face of the big change of “rising east and falling west”, Merkel has inherited the relatively pragmatic and rational style of German politics towards China since Kohl and Schroeder. This is the reason why her weight in international affairs can continue to increase. After the Biden administration came to power, it tried to form cliques and engage in group confrontation. Merkel emphasized that the EU should be independent, advocate multilateralism, and refuse to divide the world.
   According to the “Wall Street Journal”, after U.S. President Biden entered the White House in January this year, the first call to a foreign leader was to Merkel to mark the “end of the Trump era and the transatlantic The restoration of the relationship”, but Merkel declined the call on the grounds of vacation. At the same time, she also rejected the request of the United States to restrict the opening of Chinese technology.
   According to the analysis of the German “Munich Messenger”, the new German government will not adopt a hostile policy toward China in any way. For many German companies, China is one of the most important markets. Many German companies have factories and branches in China. Therefore, some experts believe that close economic and trade ties are the ballast stone of Sino-German relations, and the new German government should continue to pursue a pragmatic China policy.
   Belov, deputy director of the Institute of European Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that one of Merkel’s political achievements is to respect China politically and cooperate with China economically. He predicted that whoever becomes German Chancellor will follow Merkel’s political line. Germany will continue to be the main representative of the EU’s contacts with China, and nothing can stop Germany from establishing a partnership with China.