Thursday, Jun 29, 2017, 5:04 AM CST – China

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German President Visits China

At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, German President Joachim Gauck made his first official visit to China from March 20 to 24.

As a former civil rights activist in East Germany and a passionate advocate for democracy and freedom of speech, Gauck’s visit to China has drawn significant attention from the international community. Media groups reported that back in March 2014, when Xi traveled to Germany, Gauck spoke with him about human rights issues in China. Xi invited him to visit and see the country for himself.

Gauck did not dodge sensitive issues during his time in the Middle Kingdom – he even brought human rights commissioner Bärbel Kofler with him. According to Germany’s presidential office, Gauck talked with Xi about human rights, environmental protection, Internet security and China’s controversial management of foreign-based nongovernmental organizations.

Yet, despite some disputes, Gauck and Xi both stressed bilateral strategic cooperation. At a meeting with reporters from the State publication Global Times (GT), Gauck spoke highly of China’s rapid development, adding that he wanted this visit to deepen his understanding of China and help the two countries maintain a close relationship.

Gauck’s talk with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also focused on “cooperation.” Li expressed a strong desire to connect China’s “Made in China 2025” plan to Germany’s “Industry 4.0” strategy. According to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Li said that the two countries can best collaborate by combining Germany’s advanced technology with China’s highly cost-effective and competitive manufacturing. China will continue to open up its massive market to the outside world and welcome investment from foreign corporations. Li added that both sides will discuss further cooperation when Chancellor Angela Merkel comes to China this year for the fourth round of Sino-German talks.

During his stay in Beijing, Gauck also talked about cooperation with the senior leaders of the Party School of the Communist Party of China. He spent his last two days of the trip in Shanghai, where he visited the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, and in Xi’an, the city that marks the beginning of the ancient Silk Road. Some German media commented that Gauck is trying to find a balance between nurturing a healthy relationship with China while still staying true to his activist identity. 


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