China – Cooperation on an equal footing

China is a strategic partner for Germany. The two countries work closely together in research and education. Priority areas include environment and sustainability as well as the life sciences.

The Chinese government has been investing massively in research and innovation for many years: Its declared aim is to position China as one of the world’s leading nations in science and innovation. This is also of great relevance for German science. Together, German and Chinese researchers can find innovative solutions for global challenges and create the basis for our future prosperity.

Basis of cooperation

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research has been supporting cooperation between German and Chinese scientists for more than 40 years. The intergovernmental agreement on scientific and technological cooperation signed in 1978 laid the foundations for research cooperation between the two countries. Since then, representatives of the Chinese and German research ministries, research institutions, funding agencies and intermediaries as well as unaffiliated researchers have met on a regular basis. These meetings have served to discuss and decide future topics of cooperation.

The cooperation on education between the two countries is driven by the German-Chinese Steering Group for Education. This is concerned primarily with cooperation between higher education institutions, student and academic mobility, and vocational training.

Germany and China have been holding intergovernmental consultations since 2011 to develop cooperation in numerous policy fields. The joint action plan “Shaping innovation together!” which was adopted in 2014, confirms the strategic partnership between the two countries. During the fifth German-Chinese intergovernmental consultations in the summer of 2018, the focus was on cooperation in climate research, in Industry 4.0, in vocational education and training, and in the humanities and social sciences.

For the period 2015-2019, the China Strategy of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research represented a coherent and systematic framework for cooperation with China in the fields of education, research and innovation.

Key areas of cooperation

Topics of German-Chinese cooperation for which the Federal Ministry of Education and Research has responsibility on the German side focus on common interests in basic research and on solving global health and environment challenges. Established fields of cooperation include environmental technologies, marine research, the life sciences and education and training. New areas of cooperation, for example in climate research, are being developed all the time.

The aim is to ensure that cooperation is based on a partnership of equals and that it benefits both sides evenly. As China’s importance grows at an international level, there is an increase in the opportunities, but also the challenges, involved in cooperation – including in the science sector. In order to meet these challenges, continuous efforts are being made to improve the general conditions and the understanding of each other’s funding structures and processes.

Development and expansion of China expertise in Germany.

There needs to be an expansion of expertise about China in Germany in order to be able to deal with China as a political and economic partner and competitor on an equal footing. That is why the Federal Ministry of Education and Research has increased its commitment to the development and expansion of China expertise across the whole education system in terms of both quantity and quality under a cross-cutting initiative launched together with the Federal Foreign Office and the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education of the Länder in 2018. This covers language teaching, the integration of general knowledge about China in other subjects as well as visits to China for the further development and direct application of knowledge already learned.

One of the ways the Ministry supports students, doctoral candidates and lecturers at higher education institutions in developing their expertise on China are eleven networking projects that have been started under the funding measure “Innovative concepts for expanding China expertise at German universities”, which was launched in 2016.

An important prerequisite is the creation of a well-founded and up-to-date knowledge base regarding China’s science, research and innovation landscape as well as general political and societal developments in China. The project to monitor the research performance of the Asia-Pacific region with a special focus on China, which the Federal Research Ministry commissioned in 2018, provides an important contribution to this knowledge base.