China-Germany Friendship Association: “A Rise in unpredictable Factors”

If “people-to-people” organizations are crucial for Beijing’s diplomacy (it didn’t look like that in recent years), former Chinese ambassador to Germany, Shi Mingde, could be facing a rather challenging partial-retirement duty as the new head of the “China-Germany Friendship Association”. As far as the quotes in the following report provide clues, Shi seems to strike a mainly positive note on Sino-German relations, but less so than the overall “Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries'” president Lin Songtian, once “China’s most outspoken ambassador in Africa”.

This was in early August, before foreign minister Wang Yi started his European tour, but Shi, even if using the lot of sugarcoating that we had been used to prior to Xi Jinping‘s Major-Country Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics, also alluded to some deficits in German-Chinese relations.

The following is a translation of the report on the China-Germany Friendship Association’s conference of August 6 local time. Links added during translation.

china.com.cn (China Net, 中国网) is an online news portal under the Chinese state council’s (i. e. government’s) administration.

China Net photo, click main link underneath for article

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Former Chinese ambassador to Germany, Shi Mingde, elected chairman of China-Germany Friendship Association.

China Net, August 7 news (reporter Wang Ran). On August 6, the China-Germany Friendship Association conference was held in Beijing. Senior diplomat and former ambassador to Germany Shi Mingde was elected as the China-Germany Friendship Association’s new president. The conference also elected a deputy president and a secretary-general, passed a sixty-names’ directorate list and a China-Germany Friendship Association statute.

中国网8月日讯 (记者 王冉)8月6日,中国德国友好协会(以下简称:中德友协)换届大会在京举行。中国资深外交官、前驻德大使史明德当选新一届中德友协会长。大会还选出副会长、秘书长,通过了新一届理事60人名单和中德友协章程。

Ambassador Shi Mingde said in his address that ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Germany 48 years ago, the two countries’ relations of friendly cooperation had reached unprecedented development. The two sides’ joint interests had always outweighed division and contradictions. The two countries’ political relations were well, and economic and trade cooperation had provided substantial mutually beneficial results. But at the same time, German public opinion about China hadn’t seen fundamental improvement, and the foundations of public opinion in the two countries needed further consolidation (两国民意基础有待进一步夯实). German chancellor Angela Merkel would end her political career next year, after 16 years in office. This could lead to a rise in unpredictable factors.

史明德大使在致辞中称,中德建交48年来,两国友好合作关系得到前所未有的发展,双方共同利益始终大于分歧和矛盾。两国政治关系良好,经贸互利合作成果丰硕。但与此同时,德国对华舆论环境没有根本改善,两国民意基础有待进一步夯实。明年德国总理默克尔将结束执政16年的政治生涯,中德关系未来的不可预测因素可能上升。

Shi Mingde said that the China-Germany Friendship Association, in its coming years, would play a leading role in people-to-people [or non-governmental] exchanges with Germany and create a great platform for people-to-people exchange with Germany. [It would] speak out actively and let more German masses understand a real and objective China. It would promote Sino-German regional exchanges and serve regional economic development. He hoped that the China-German Friendship Association could, under the guidance and with the support of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, continuously promote the friendly exchange and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries’ peoples, and the rise of Sino-German friendly cooperation to the next level.

史明德表示,新一届中德友协要在对德民间交往中发挥引领作用,打造对德民间交流大平台;积极对外发声,让更多德国民众了解一个真实、客观的中国;促进中德地方交流,服务地方经济发展。他希望中德友协能在中国人民对外友好协会的指导和支持下,不断推进两国民间友好交流与互利合作,促进中德友好合作更上一层楼。

Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries’ president Lin Songtian said at the conference that China and Germany were both firm supporters of globalization and multilateralism, with common interests and similar positions concerning the protection of world peace and justice. Currently, there were 99 partnerships between Chinese and German provinces, federal states and cities, and 1.5 million visits in either direction per year. He believed that under the new president’s leadership, the China-German Friendship Association would attract broader masses to participation and exchange, promote the mutual understanding between the two countries’ peoples, learning from each other and setting examples for each other, promote closer attachment and connectedness, to contribute more people-to-people wisdom and strengths to the deepening of the Sino-German comprehensive [『 全方位』, not just『全面』 ] strategic partnership.

中国人民对外友好协会会长林松添在换届大会上表示,中德都是全球化和多边主义的坚定支持者,在维护世界和平与正义、促进全球合作与发展繁荣等方面拥有广泛的共同利益和相近立场。目前,中德友好省州和城市有99对,每年有150余万人次互访。他相信,中德友协在新任会长领导下能吸引两国更广泛民众参与交流,促进两国人民相互了解、互学互鉴,实现民相亲、心相通,为深化中德全方位战略伙伴关系贡献更多民间智慧和力量,更好造福两国人民。

After the conference, Shi Mingde gave China Net an interview. He said that on July 1, Germany had taken the European Union’s rotating chairmanship for the current half-year term. This year was a critical period for Sino-European relations, and as the chairing country of the EU, Germany picked up an important role. “I hope for the EU’s and Germany’s joint efforts, to send a positive signal of support for multilateralism and against unilateralism, [a positive signal] of cooperation and mutual profits.”

史明德在会后就中德双边关系接受了中国网采访。他说,7月1日,德国接任欧盟轮值主席国,开启为期半年的任期。今年是中欧关系的关键时期,作为欧盟轮值主席国的德国起着至关重要的作用。“我希望与欧盟和德国一起共同努力,向世界发出坚持多边主义,反对单边主义,合作共赢的积极信号。”

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