Sino-German ties show the benefits of being pragmatic

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 July, 2014, 4:31am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 July, 2014, 8:54am

China and Germany are forging a special relationship. It is based not on the idealism or realism Western nations have been apt to adopt, but one centred on another "ism" - pragmatism. That was on show throughout German Chancellor Angela Merkel's recent visit to China, with both sides putting ideology aside in favour of achieving goals. Such an appreciation of the art of the possible can help build the trust and understanding so important to ties.

Sino-German ties are already close. Merkel's visit was her seventh as chancellor and her meeting with President Xi Jinping was the second in three months. Her trips are so frequent that the latest generated little media attention in Germany, despite the billions of dollars in business and economic cooperation deals, the opening of the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges to German investors among them.

The relationship's foundation lies in trade and investment. Germany is China's biggest trading partner in Europe, while China is Germany's largest in Asia. No European country invests more in China than Germany. But there are also growing cultural and educational exchanges.

Germany is at the end of the economic "new silk road" to Europe envisaged by Xi. German influence within the European Union also offers an opportunity to strengthen ties on the continent that will reap benefits for China. Germany's trust in the US has been eroded by allegations that America's National Security Agency has been spying on Germany and tapping Merkel's phone, giving impetus to Xi's proposal that cooperation be increased to improve the international system.

But as close as the nations are growing, there is still much to be done on security. China's record on human rights and protecting intellectual property also irk Germany. But Merkel downplayed these during her visit to further the relationship in other areas. Pragmatically working together is a lesson for other countries. The benefits go beyond bilateral relations to offering hope for solutions to regional and global problems.