China will open but only gradually, China's German ambassador says

FILE PHOTO - German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives the ambassador of China in Germany, Shi Mingde, in Meseberg, Germany July 6, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

BERLIN (Reuters) - China’s ambassador to Germany told the newspaper Die Welt that his country’s ties to Germany were closer than to any other European country, but that it still could not fully open its market to foreign partners.

Beijing and Berlin are of necessity close allies in the fight to preserve the open international trading system that has made them both exporting powerhouses. German businesses complain, however, that they do not enjoy the freedom to invest in China that the Chinese do in Europe.

“Political relations between China and Germany are as close and as good as never before”, Shi Mingde said in an interview released on Thursday. “With no other European country does China maintain such intense relations.”

But Shi said that China needed to be cautious on foreign investment. Despite its integration into the world economy, China was still industrializing, he said, so it could not entirely open its market.

“The German market is more open than the Chinese in many regards, but we are working intensely to open it further,” Shi said, adding that the opening measures are being implemented gradually.

Asked about Germany’s signals to create mechanisms to shield strategically sensitive companies against takeovers by Chinese investors, Shi said that those fears were “totally groundless”.

“In most Chinese takeovers, two or three managers arrive from the Chinese parent company, but the leadership team stays,” he said, adding that companies would then get more orders from China and full access to the Chinese market.

(This version of the story corrects comments in first, third, fifth, seventh paragraphs after Die Welt issued a correction, saying the interview published in their printed newspaper on Thursday was not authorized by the Chinese embassy)

Reporting by Tassilo Hummel, editing by Larry King