Xi Jinping, Angela Merkel bond over ‘panda diplomacy’ before G-20 meet
The two giant pandas were pre-flown to Germany in June for their public debut attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Berlin: Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for expanded trade between the two nations, taking a joint stand before the Group of 20 summit during a day of “panda diplomacy” in Berlin.
Two days before Merkel hosts other G-20 leaders in Hamburg, Xi’s stop in the German capital underscored the bond between the world’s No. 1 and No. 3 merchandise exporters as they step into a global leadership gap left by US President Donald Trump’s administration.
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“German-Chinese relations stand before a new beginning, for which we need new breakthroughs,” Xi said alongside Merkel in Berlin after the two oversaw the signing of agreements between China and companies including Siemens AG, Airbus SE and Daimler AG.
Berlin then played host to the ultimate Chinese gesture of tightening relations in an environment buffeted by geopolitical risk: the panda handover. The US received the first two pandas in 1972, after then President Richard Nixon made his historic first visit to Communist China.
To the crash of a gong, Berlin zoo officials drew back a red curtain to reveal Jiao Ping and his female companion Meng Meng. The two giant pandas were pre-flown to Germany in June for their public debut attended by Xi and Merkel, who smiled as they watched one of the bears devour branch after branch of bamboo.
“This event is symbolic of relations between our two countries,” Merkel said. “We’ve worked very closely over the past year in the G-20 framework. Now we have two very pleasant diplomats here.”
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After what the zoo calls a moment of “panda fever,” the two leaders attended a game of youth soccer, a nod to Xi’s push to make China a power in the world’s most popular sport.
Germany and China are bonding over shared goals of trade and curbing climate change. Merkel said she’ll seek to move along talks between China and the European Union on the former’s trade status and called for progress toward an investment accord that could in time lead to a free-trade agreement.
German-Chinese relations have been repositioned, Xi said. Merkel said Germany is ready to participate in Xi’s Belt and Road initiative to upgrade trade links along the ancient Silk Road across Asia. Deals signed in the two leaders’ presence include a Chinese order for Airbus A320 aircraft and expanded cooperation between German carmaker Daimler AG and China’s BAIC Motor Corp.
The Merkel-Xi moment contrasts with the two-day G-20 summit starting on Friday in Hamburg, Germany’s busiest commercial port, which the chancellor has said will suffer “discord”.
“There will be difficult talks on a range of topics,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s spokesman, told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday. “There are all kinds of cliffs to navigate around.” Bloomberg