Politics is a growing feature of Sino-German relations, but still takes a back seat to business When German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder wanted to discuss his visit to the mainland next month with Premier Wen Jiabao last week, he used a new telephone hotline connecting Berlin with Beijing. The installation of the secure line, modelled on the hotlines the German leader has to the White House and the Kremlin, shows how far Sino-German ties have evolved from their starting point of mutual economic interests. Although economics and trade continue to dominate their dealings, both sides are placing increasing importance on the political aspects of the relationship. 'It seems like Gerhard Schroeder leads a big business delegation to China each year, but politics are definitely starting to play a bigger role,' said Eberhard Sandschneider, head of the China programme at the German Council on Foreign Relations. 'The leaders even appear to be developing personal contacts,' he said. Upon Mr Schroeder's arrival in Beijing on December 6, he and Mr Wen will pick up where their telephone conversation left off, when they meet for what a German government spokesman termed broad consultations. Besides bilateral issues, the two leaders are expected to cover topics including the possible lifting of the European Union's weapons embargo against the mainland, and Beijing's efforts to be designated a market economy by Brussels. Germany's desire to gain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council is also likely to be on the agenda. Dr Sandschneider said the clear overlapping of interests was the driving force behind the expansion of political ties between the two countries. But he and other analysts consider the business-oriented component of Mr Schroeder's trip equally, if not more, important. 'Germany's policies toward China are still dominated by economic concerns - everything else takes a back seat,' Kay Moeller, from the German Institute for International Politics and Security Affairs in Berlin, told the Sunday Morning Post. China is Germany's most important export market in Asia, and Mr Schroeder might express concern about the weak US dollar dragging down the yuan against the euro. 'If the yuan is decoupled from the dollar it would take pressure off German exporters,' said Andre Schwarz, from the BGA German Foreign Trade Association. In Beijing, Mr Schroeder will also attend the opening of a new plant for carmaker DaimlerChrysler. On Friday the company announced plans to expand its Chinese production site for Mercedes-Benz cars and vans. Another German carmaker, Volkswagen, will take centre stage when Mr Schroeder travels to the northeastern industrial city of Changchun. He will tour Volkswagen's joint venture with First Automotive Works. From Changchun, Mr Schroeder will travel to Japan before returning to Berlin.