China: Cooperating Closely to Meet Global Challenges

China is an important strategic partner for Germany in terms of economic and scientific cooperation. Both countries are working together closely in the fields of environmental protection, sustainability, urbanization, and the life sciences.

The China Strategy of the Federal Research Ministry, which was published in October 2015, represents a coherent and systematic framework for cooperation with China in education, research and innovation from 2015 to 2020. The Strategy comprises an analysis of previous measures and general conditions of cooperation as well as an outlook on the orientation of future cooperation. It thus plays an important part in shaping the increasingly complex cooperation between China and Germany in research, science, education and innovation.

Political Framework of Bilateral Cooperation

The intergovernmental agreement on scientific and technological cooperation signed in 1978 laid the foundations for research cooperation between the two countries. Representatives of the Chinese and German research ministries, research institutions, funding agencies and intermediaries as well as unaffiliated researchers meet on a regular basis to discuss the areas and framework of cooperation.

The two countries are also holding strategic education policy discussions to advance education cooperation, in particular in the fields of higher education, mobility of students and researchers, and vocational education and training. Both the number of joint initiatives between German and Chinese universities and the quality of cooperation which is expressed in joint study courses, double degrees and university institutes have risen steadily in recent years. The Sino-German College for Applied Sciences within the Sino-German University at Tongji University in Shanghai is the beacon project in which Germany is represented by a consortium of 26 universities of applied sciences.

Germany and China have been holding intergovernmental consultations since 2011 to develop cooperation in a number of policy fields. The joint action plan 'Shaping innovation together!' was adopted at the Third Intergovernmental Consultations in October 2014 with the goal of strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries also in those fields that fall within the remit of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The 4th German-Chinese intergovernmental consultations which took place in Beijing on 13 June 2016 included the signing of four joint Declarations of Intent (“Innovation Platform“, “Biomaterials“, “Research Funding 2+2“, “Education“). This brings the number of bilateral declarations to a total of 19, of which 14 have been signed during intergovernmental consultations.

Examples of Cooperation: Water, Marine Research and Innovation

China is facing great environmental challenges. That is why China and Germany have been cooperating closely in environmental technologies, in particular water technologies. The world's first decentralized integrated supply and treatment system SEMIZENTRAL was opened with the support of the Federal Research Ministry and in cooperation with German and Chinese universities and industrial partners on the occasion of the World Horticultural Exposition in Qingdao in 2014. German researchers are also China's only overseas partners involved in a number of Chinese mega water projects aimed at rehabilitating heavily polluted lakes and rivers in some of China's regions.

Another outstanding example of cooperation is the programme between the Federal Research Ministry and the Chinese State Oceanic Administration (SOA) on marine and polar research. The signing of a joint declaration at the Second Intergovernmental Consultations in August 2013 marked a milestone in bilateral cooperation. The Federal Ministry and the Chinese agency SOA agreed to include three further priority fields (on top of existing research themes) in their joint funding programme: physical oceanography, marine mineral deposits and polar research. A call for proposals for bilateral research projects was issued in June 2013 to consolidate the joint declaration. Over 40 proposals for joint research projects were submitted overall, of which ten bilateral projects have been funded since mid-2014.

The Sino-German Innovation Platform to foster cooperation in innovation research was launched in 2011. Four major innovation conferences have been held in Beijing and Berlin since, involving researchers, policy-makers and the business community in both countries. The Platform deals not only with scientific innovation research, for example by comparing innovation systems, but also with the practical application of research and innovation.

Research and Education in China

The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) are the Chinese partner ministries of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. MOST designs the strategies and framework for the implementation of the national science and technology policy. MOE is the competent ministry to lay down the structural framework and contents of the school and higher education system and thus also responsible for skill development of young researchers.

The most paramount Chinese research institutions are: the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Unlike the first two academies, the Chinese Academy of Engineering does not have any affiliated research institutes, but mainly acts as a counsellor to the Chinese government in drafting programmes and strategies for national megaprojects. The National Natural Science Foundation is an institution for the management of the National Natural Science Fund and aimed at promoting and financing basic research. The China Scholarship Council awards fellowships to Chinese and foreign nationals who want to go abroad or come to China respectively in order to study, earn their PhD or do research.

China's political leaders see research and innovation as the basis for economic growth. The 2006 'National Medium- and Long-Term Program for Science and Technology Development' is the framework programme for China's research and technology policy until 2020. Some concrete objectives specified in the programme include raising research and development expenditure to 2.5 percent of GDP (compared to 2.02 percent in 2013), increasing the share of research and development to account for 60 percent of economic growth, limiting independence on foreign technologies to under 30 percent, and placing China among the world's top 5 in patents and scientific citations.