BERLIN – Germany and China on Wednesday vowed to deepen cooperation in the area of economy, climate protection and health, amid major disagreements on human rights.

At the start of the German-Chinese government talks which were organized online due to the pandemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel pointed to the differences of opinion in the sphere of human rights in a joint statement with China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

For his part, Li also openly admitted to considerable differences in German-Chinese relations.

It was the sixth edition of the Sino-German government talks which have been taking place every two years since 2011, during which the members of the cabinets also come together for deliberations.

Merkel said part of the partnership is also “that we can address difficult issues and put everything on the table.”

As an example, she cited the situation in Hong Kong, where Beijing has adopted a security law restricting political freedoms.

China has repeatedly rejected Western criticism of its tough stance against the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong or of its alleged crackdown on the Muslim Uyghur minority as interference in its internal affairs.

Merkel told Li that she wished that both sides could “get the human rights dialogue going again as soon as possible.”

The chancellor defended the dialogue with Beijing, saying conflicts could only be resolved if you keep talking.


The Chinese prime minister echoed Merkel’s remarks by also highlighting their differences at the outset of the government deliberations.

“China and Germany have different views on some of the issues. That is an objective fact, ” Li said.

As long as both sides, however, “respect their core interests” and communicate “on the basis of equal treatment and non-interference in internal affairs”, they could create favorable conditions for the continued smooth development of cooperation, he added.

According to Li, the current international situation is going through complex and far-reaching changes.

He pointed out the pandemic was far from over and there was still protectionism.

As major economies and influential countries, China and Germany support multilateralism and free trade, the Chinese leader said.

“Both sides should set an example for openness, mutual benefit and cooperation for mutual benefit,” Li reiterated.

Germany considers China a partner when it comes to trade, climate change and issues like the Iran nuclear agreement.

Pressed by the US to adopt a more hardline stance on China over what Washington sees as China’s aggressive foreign policy, the German government has refused to stand up to Beijing citing its major economic interests in the Asian country.