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Elections

China seeks continuity after German elections

Angela Merkel or Peer Steinbrück? The question of who will become Germany's next chancellor also interests the Chinese. Analysts expect a victory for Merkel and her ruling coalition in September's general elections.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is known in China for her rational and pragmatic approach to politics. In the past eight years, she has left her mark on Sino-German relations. In her latest visit to China in August 2012 she met with Chinese President Xi Jinping (main photo).

"Merkel's charming and personal touch to politics have proven to be beneficial. She has a good understanding of different viewpoints that help her identify solutions. The opposition does not pose a big challenge to her," says Zhao Chen, political analyst at the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

German Social Democrats (SPD) chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrueck speaks to supporters at the Deutschland Fest marking the 150th anniversary of the SPD on August 17, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

SPD politician is unknown to most Chinese

Liu Liqun, a professor of German politics at Beijing Foreign Studies University, argues that Merkel's high standing in China is also linked to Germany's good economic performance. "Despite the euro zone crisis, the German economy has remained stable," he said. Being the world's most powerful woman, Merkel goes down well with the Chinese, he added.

Focusing on opinion polls

Chancellor Merkel is a popular figure in China, unlike her rival Peer Steinbrück. According to Bian Wei, a correspondent for China's Xinhua news agency, only few Chinese have heard of the politician from the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Chinese media are mainly interested in the impact the German election results might have on China, Bian told DW, adding that regardless of who is the winner, Sino-German relations will evolve further. Bian says that the Chinese media focus almost entirely on facts and figures from opinion polls: "We don't make any projections. We report on the election campaign and the potential coalitions and leave out the details about internal politics. They are not interesting for the general public," the Xinhua reporter said.

The cyber espionage issue

Germany expert Liu points out that Chinese media coverage on the Merkel-led government has been overwhelmingly positive. However, there is an exception. Bilateral relations cooled off significantly after Merkel received the Tibetan religious leader, Dalai Lama, at the chancellery in 2007. But experts argue that Merkel's rational and pragmatic approach has led to a normalization of ties, which have been increasingly driven by economic trade.

According to Chinese analysts, the chancellor showed signs of weakness during the recent US spying scandal involving the NSA. Liu believes that leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is facing a dilemma: "On the one hand, Germany is keen on protecting the transatlantic relationship. On the other hand, Merkel is under increasing public pressure over the surveillance scandal." But Chinese media barely reported on the issue which, according to Liu, won't play a major role in the upcoming elections.

Potential turbulence

Markus Löning, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid (L) and Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng
Ort: Berlin
Datum: 23.04.2013
Fotograf: Su Yutong (DW/Chinesisch)

Human right issues could play a bigger role in a German "red-green" led government

Nevertheless, the human rights issue in China might play a bigger role, if the SPD and Greens win enough votes, says the analyst.

Many politicians from the Green party recently slammed China's human rights record. Liu believes such actions could lead to "turbulence" in bilateral ties, should a so-called "red-green" coalition form the next government.

However, both Chinese state media and Germany experts are of the opinion that, regardless of who wins the upcoming vote, there won't be any major changes in Sino-German ties, as the China policies of both political camps don't differ much.