Chinese President Xi Jinping held farewell to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who leaves office after 16 years in the chancellery since 2005, in a video meeting on Wednesday and called her an “old friend (lăo péngyŏu),” speaking very highly of the outgoing leader of Germany. President Xi’s cordial greetings to Chancellor Merkel is likely to have been stemmed from Chancellor Merkel’s 12 visits to China during her tenure and her impartiality amid the U.S.-China tensions. The German chancellor frequently clashed with the Donald Trump administration over Trump’s intense pressure to spend more on defense and U.S. troops in Germany.
On Thursday, the People’s Daily, China’s largest newspaper, ran on the front page the photo of President Xi and Chancellor Merkel, both smiling, in a video meeting. President Xi rarely smiles in public, but he wore a pleasant smile throughout the meeting with Chancellor Merkel. The People’s Daily wrote that the China-Germany relations and the China-EU relations have been strengthened during Merkel’s time in office. “Chinese people put great emphasis on ties of friendship,” Xi was quoted as saying, adding, “We will never forget old friends, and China’s door will always be open to you.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a press release stating that President Xi cited Mencius’ saying that goes, “The acquaintance of people lies in knowing each other. In knowing each other, it is important to know the heart.” Xi applauded that Merkel’s chancellery proved that China and Germany could avoid playing a zero-sum game and were still be able to enjoy mutual benefits.
The Global Times, China’s state-run English newspaper, also carried a favorable editorial, stating that Chancellor Merkel visited China the most among global leaders of major countries, and Germany adopted pragmatic China policies under her administration. Since her inauguration in November 2005, Angela Merkel visited China 12 times through September 2019, before the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Xi Jinping visited Germany three times during the same period. The two leaders have communicated via phone and video meetings since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. In 2021 alone, Xi and Merkel contacted on five occasions.
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