Interview von Botschafter Dr. Schaefer mit China Daily
Botschafter Dr. Michael Schaefer im Interview mit Mike Peters, China Daily:
Q: You recently accompanied Premier Wen Jiabao on his trip to your country. What are your impressions of that visit?
A: Prime Minister Wen Jiabao assisted at the opening of the Hanover Fair, which is the largest industrial fair in the world, and China was the partner country of that event this year. I think his participation underlined the enormous importance that the partnership between Germany and China has developed.
A key issue of the fair was green intelligence, so more than 500 Chinese companies presented a number of very interesting high-tech products, including some which have been developed in cooperation with German companies..
Every meeting of world leaders produces smiles for the photographers, but it always seems like Premier Wen and Chancellor Merkel really enjoy each other's company?
Well, I think you are right - there is chemistry between these two personalities, and chemistry in politics, as in other sectors of life, is extremely important. Both come from a more academic background, both have studied natural sciences, so there's a meeting of minds. They understand each other, they think in the same direction, and that's important.
But the essence of our partnership is based on interests so broad that we have progressed beyond the level of personal contacts, of personal chemistry, no matter who the leaders are in the future. I am confident that we will continue to have the closest possible partnership.
Between the premier's visit and the big auto show that just ended in Beijing, we have seen a lot of news about German cars. What is it about your country's cars that makes them so sexy?
Cars are part of the German soul. Daimler invented the car, and 125 years ago, German mechanics started to experiment. While Ford was doing it in the US, Daimler was doing it in Europe. The automobile became the vehicle to personal freedom and it has been an important part of German life ever since.
Germans love their cars, and because they love their cars, they are able to produce cars that are being loved by other people as well.
Our companies are highly successful in China because they have tried to read the Chinese soul, and to deliver this successful mixture of innovation, quality, design, brand and accessories. German engineering never stops breaking new boundaries - that's the secret of its success.
How will Germany mark 40 years of diplomatic relations with China in 2012?
It's important to remember that when we established diplomatic relations we were living in a totally different world. China was still in the midst of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), with all its problems for society here. Germany was a split country, living in the cold war period of a split Europe. It's amazing to see how, in only 40 years, we have gone through radical changes in China as well as in Germany, but that as a result of those enormous changes, we have been able to move towards each other in a way that nobody would have imagined four decades ago.
We will have a number of events commemorating the 40 years. One of them we call the German-Chinese Bridge to the Future. We are bringing together 15 young Chinese and 15 young Germans who represent business, science, culture, and arts. They will get together in a summer camp, dealing with issues which are important for young people in both worlds.
We hope this will be an annual event that will build a network of young people who will be our leaders of tomorrow. Other anniversary events later will be a citizens' festival and an event at the NCPA.
China has expressed great confidence recently in the EU's ability to resolve the debt crisis. What will it take for the markets to regain confidence in Europe?
We have to make a distinction between the stability of the euro and the stability of certain markets in Europe. There is no crisis of the euro. We have a sovereign debt crisis in some EU member states.
In Europe we have to solidify our national finance systems, and develop modern structures of economy that are capable of responding to the global market, trigger growth and create jobs.
We already did such reforms in Germany, not because we are more intelligent than others, but because we were forced to as a result of the German unification process. 17 million people had to be incorporated into the Western German market.
We therefore engaged in a process of far reaching structural reforms. By the time the financial and economic crisis came up in 2008 and 2009, we had a relatively sound basis from which we could operate. In March, 25 out of 27 EU members have decided to go forward with the fiscal compact, which means very strict structural reforms in the national economies. That obviously will not be sufficient. We will also need to trigger more growth. I would expect that a growth compact will complement the fiscal compact.
How long have you been in China?
I came to China in 2007, so I am almost five years in China already, which is a record time for a German ambassador.
I am fascinated by the amazing development I am able to follow here. I have been grateful to be able to see a lot of the country - all of the provinces except three or four, which I intend to visit this year.
What has been the hardest part of your job as Germany's ambassador?
Explaining why an issue like human rights is so important to a country like Germany - and to explain that addressing human-rights issues is not an instrument to fight China.
There's always a perception that Western countries - including Germany - would use human rights in order to isolate a country like China or to put it into a defensive position. That's not the case.
Germany has gone through a century of human rights violations itself. We have had two dictatorships in Germany under which Germans have suffered for most of the last century. And after overcoming these situations in our own society, we have learned that in order to establish harmony in a society, you need a balance of the interests of the society as a whole but also the interests of the individual.
Friends and partners like Germany and China need to be able to tackle difficult issues in an open, frank and fair way.
We are learning more and more how to talk about these issues and to respect each other. It gets easier.
And your best moment as ambassador?
My most emotional experience in China clearly was a situation in Chongqing on May 13, 2008. That was right after the earthquake in Sichuan, and we decided to have a concert which would raise funds for the families of the victims.
And it was amazing to see. We had thousands of people on top of the Development Museum of Chongqing, right above the shores of the Yangtze. Thousands of people, and in the course of three and half hours we collected 110 million yuan for the families in the disaster. And I made a speech in front of 4,000 or 5,000 people - I never had done that before - and I said, "We are one family."
We all had the feeling, in that moment of disaster, that this is where friendship really counts.