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German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier meets German relief workers in Dujiangyan, China
© dpa - Bildfunk
In China, German Foreign Minister calls for open dialogue

June 16, 2008

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for open dialogue between the state and civil society during his visit to China, beginning 13th June 2008. The foreign minister's three-day trip included both meetings with high-level governmental officials and a tour to the earthquake-hit Sichuan province.

An open dialogue between the state and civil society included the willingness and ability to criticise, Steinmeier said at the opening of an urban development conference in the megacity of Chongqing on Sunday, 15th June 2008. Common responsibility worked best when the two parties were open towards each other and other countries.

"Openness creates trust," he said, adding that politics should not only limit criticism. Steinmeier told the conference in Chongqing that globalisation requires new policies. "Not just between centres of power in a multipolar world, but also between the state and civil society," he added.

The conference considered the challenges of growing urbanisation in China. It was part of a series of events under the theme "Germany and China -- Together in Motion" that has been ongoing since autumn 2007.

Shocked by quake effects

On Sunday, 14th June Steinmeier had visited the earthquake affected area in the country's south-west. "The situation is dramatic," a visibly shaken Steinmeier said at a camp in the area. It was not possible to imagine from a distance what shock the country had gone through in the wake of the earthquake, the German minister said.

The May 12th quake caused more than 70,000 deaths. Steinmeier visited the cities of Chengdu and Dujiangyan in the earthquake-hit region to discuss the work of German aid organisations. He said he was pleased that German relief for the victims had arrived so quickly.

Germany plans to assist in the reconstruction of eight schools. The German Red Cross has already set up a field hospital funded by the German foreign ministry to the tune of more than 1 million euros ($1.5 million).

"A true friend"

Steinmeier said he welcomed developments in Sino-German relations, adding that a "complete normalisation" had come about. His three-day visit to China, which began on Friday, 13th June came in the wake of a period of frosty ties between Berlin and Beijing after Chancellor Angela Merkel received the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in September 2007.

After meeting Steinmeier in Beijing on Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi announced that the two countries aimed to resume their dialogue on human rights issues. Yang said the dialogue would resume in the second half of this year.

In a further indication of an improvement in the bilateral situation, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao thanked Germany for its earthquake relief aid, which amounted to some 20 million euros, and called Germany "a true friend in need."



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