Video call between Xi and Merkel highlights deep friendship, 'paves good way' for further China-EU talks
Published: Oct 13, 2021 06:50 PM Updated: Oct 13, 2021 10:40 PM
Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel via video link in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 13, 2021.Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel via video link in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 13, 2021.Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke highly of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's contributions to promoting China-Germany and China-EU relations during her tenure when Xi met Merkel via video link on Wednesday. Xi said China's doors are always open to Merkel as the Chinese people always value friendship and will never forget old friends.

"Since I met you during my visit to Germany in 2009, we have had in-depth exchanges on bilateral relations, major international and regional issues and governance experience. Together, we have pushed forward bilateral relations and promoted China-Germany cooperation in addressing global challenges. You have a deep understanding of China-Germany relations, China-Germany cooperation and China. I can feel your interest in China and your interest in different places, including Malatang [a hot and spicy soupy dish of meat and vegetables] in Sichuan Province. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Germany. We really hope this could continue," Xi said.  

In the spirit of mutually beneficial cooperation, China and Germany have made full use of their economic complementarities and achieved win-win results. This proves that countries can avoid zero-sum games, and this should be the main tone of China-Germany relations, Xi stressed. 

As Germans' "Mutti (mother)" and Europe's "crisis manager," Merkel is about to leave from the post she has held for 16 years, making her the country's second-longest-serving chancellor and the first chancellor to leave power by choice.

Her leaving the post comes at a critical moment for Europe, which has plunged into a dilemma of refugees, an aging population, rampant far-right forces and being hit head-on by the US' constant betrayal. The world is curious about whether there will be another Merkel that can lead Europe to fend off risks.  

Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at China Institute of International Studies, said it is rare to see the Chinese president speak so highly of a Western leader in recent years, and such evaluation was based on the steady and sound development of China-Germany relations over the past 16 years. 

It shows that China hopes Merkel's successor could follow in her footsteps and make continuous contributions to the stability of bilateral relations. The video call, an important stop of Merkel's farewell tour, could set a good example to the leaders of other European countries, Cui told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"After stepping down from the post, Merkel is also widely expected to continue to make a difference in bilateral relations and China-EU relations in new positions," Cui noted.  

President Xi pointed out that China and Germany could expand cooperation in the fields of green energy and digital economy, and the two sides should view China-EU relations from a broad, objective and comprehensive perspective, and handle differences in a rational, peaceful and constructive manner. 

"We hope that the EU will uphold its independence, truly safeguard its own interests and the solidarity of the international community, and work with China and other countries to resolve the 'challenge of the century' - peace and development," Xi said. 

Merkel said she always believes that the EU should develop its relations with China independently and the two sides can strengthen dialogue and exchanges on issues on which they have differences. "I believe that EU-China relations will continue to grow despite various complicated factors," she said. 

Footprints of Merkel's 12 visits to China as German Chancellor Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

Footprints of Merkel's 12 visits to China as German Chancellor Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

Chinese experts believe that China will continue to take an independent diplomatic policy free from other countries' interference. But the contact this time will surely bear some fruits.  

China-EU relations have witnessed a downward spiral in recent months. On March 22, the European Union joined the US, the UK and Canada in announcing sanctions against Chinese officials for alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. China immediately announced countermeasures against 10 individuals and four entities, including several members of the European Parliament.

The European Parliament later formally froze the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, citing Beijing's counter-sanctions. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi criticized the EU for politicizing economic and trade issues but still sent a friendly message to the EU after the freeze, stressing that China always views the EU as a partner, not an adversary. 

"China has maintained good cooperation with member countries of the EU, but has always encountered some hurdles in dealing with the organization. It is time to face the hurdles and address the problems," Cui said. 

The EU should know that confrontation would only lead to a dead end, and shifting the focus from conflicts to cooperation is a smarter move, Cui said, noting that the video call on Wednesday will pave a good way for further China-EU talks. 

On September 28, Wang Yi and Josep Borrell, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, decided to strengthen coordination on the new round of high-level economic, trade and digital dialogue and continue to advance cooperation in science and technology innovation, finance and energy during the 11th round of high-level strategic dialogue between China and the EU via video link. 

One day earlier, Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng stressed that China and the EU should make full use of the high-level dialogue platform on climate to further deepen green cooperation between the two sides and enhance mutual understanding and trust when he met with executive vice president of the European Commission for the European Green Deal via video link.

The South China Morning Post reported on Monday that the Chinese president will conduct a telephone call with European Council President Charles Michel on Friday, citing an EU official familiar with the plan.

Germany's 16 years with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Graphic: Wu Tiantong/GT

Germany's 16 years with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Graphic: Wu Tiantong/GT