Honorable Mr. Rudd,
Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
“Neighbour China”. That is the short and simple title of a book published in 2006 about Germany, China and the rest of the world. It is a discussion between a business journalist and the Hamburger, who more than any other German politician, paved the way for relations between China and Germany: Helmut Schmidt.
Helmut Schmidt was one of the first to recognise the role China would play in the global economy.
In 1972 he helped to ensure that the Federal Republic of Germany established diplomatic relations with China. And in 1975, he was the first German Chancellor to visit China.
Since then relations between China and Germany have become much closer, as can be seen in the twinning of towns – in Hamburg we have just celebrated the 30th anniversary of our partnership with our twin city Shanghai –, the Confucius-Institutes throughout Germany, and, of course, in the strength of our trade links.
Incidentally, more than half of all Germany’s foreign trade with the People’s Republic of China is handled in the Port of Hamburg. Last year Hamburg and China traded a total of 3 Million standard containers.
Germany is by far China’s most important partner in the EU, in the past year the volume of trade amounted to 163 billion euro, which is about 30% of the imports from China to the European Union.
However, it is not only in matters of trade, but also in global politics that China and Germany have long since become “neighbours”. Together we are striving to deal with the climate change affecting our planet, recently demonstrated by our efforts at the climate conference in Marrakech. The challenges to our planet posed by global warming are so daunting that not even a huge country such as China can face them alone.
We are also jointly concerned about the spread of armed conflicts throughout the world – such as in Syria at the moment. And we are trying within the bodies of the United Nations to work towards a peaceful settlement of such conflicts. And together we want to shape globalisation so that as many countries as possible can benefit from it - by having fair regulations and an equitable balance.
All of this means that contacts between our two countries are essential. The Chamber of Commerce has played a key role in building a good relationship between Hamburg and China. For more than ten years it has been the host and co-organiser of the Hamburg Summit “China meets Europe”. I am very pleased to see that, this year once again, so many of our Chinese partners have travelled here to be with us.
I am particularly delighted that Vice-Premier LIU Yandong will be participating, thereby eminently continuing the tradition of visits by high-profile guests. The Hamburg China Summit has developed into one of the most important Sino-European Conferences.
In the past month the European Union and China met for the sixth EU-China High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue. Both sides have a significant interest in linking the Investment Plan for Europe and the Chinese Silk Road Initiative. The reforms underway in the Chinese economy provide great opportunities for the European economy, even though there are still many unresolved issues.
In the last thirty years it seems to me that China and Europe have rediscovered each other. We have come together in many ways: by land or by sea and via the super information highways.
And a further way leading us to each other can be through music. In a few weeks we will be opening – after a certain degree of construction time – I must admit – a new, spectacular building right in the centre of the Hamburg harbour: the Elbphilharmonie. A first-class concert hall: both architecturally and acoustically. Leading Chinese musicians will also be performing there. We in Hamburg are extremely proud of it and are looking forward to the Elbphilharmonie – and would like to invite all our international guests to take a look at this new building. It is already possible to view it today. And from January on, you can also listen to the music inside the building. So, you will all have to come back again.
From the Elbphilharmonie you have a fantastic view over the Hamburg harbour – and are guaranteed a sight of container vessels from China.
Germany is, by far, China’s most important trading partner in Europe. And here again, we come back to Hamburg. Hamburg is highly aware of its responsibility for both German-Chinese relations and European trade.
“China meets Europe“ that always means “China meets Hamburg“ too. On this note, I wish you all a successful Hamburg Summit.
Or, to put it shortly, simply and in the words of Helmut Schmidt: To good neighbours!