Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaving the German-Chinese forum Innovation Gemeinsam Gestalten in Berlin on Thursday. Photo: DPA/Bernd von Jutrczenka

China and Germany have long been a natural fit. East German experts provided much needed science and engineering expertise during the Mao era, and in recent history Angela Merkel and former Premier Wen Jiabao struck important deals in a sign of even bigger things to come.

China is now Germany’s biggest export market, and with a surge in new corporate partnerships between the two countries, it will become an even bigger one. While the protectionist rhetoric from the Trump White House likely had no real impact on an already strong trade relationship, Berlin and Beijing have no doubt been eager to send a message to Washington with their talk of the benefits of globalization and free trade.

Nikkei Asian Review writes that representatives from around 10 leading companies from both countries signed partnerships during Premier Li Keqiang’s recent visit to Germany:

The most symbolic of such collaborations are a tie-up between leading Chinese search engine Baidu and German automotive components supplier Robert Bosch in self-driving vehicles.


Chinese automaker Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group (JAC Motor) and Germany’s Volkswagen signed a deal to make and sell electric vehicles in a 50-50 joint venture. In addition, electric-vehicle startup NIO agreed to develop electric vehicles and self-driving cars jointly with German auto parts manufacturer Continental.

Shanghai-based NIO was established in 2014 and has drawn investment from the likes of Tencent Holdings and Baidu recently invested nearly $100 million in it. NIO plans to release its first electric vehicle as soon as late this year, and will outsource production to JAC Motor. Continental will provide tires and parts, and is also in a partnership with Baidu, NIO’s largest shareholder.

The result is a framework in place in which Baidu, NIO, JAC Motor, VW, Bosch and Continental are working together to develop electric vehicles and self-driving cars in China.

Germany’s Daimler, meanwhile, has agreed to broaden its partnership with Beijing Automobile Works (BAW) from luxury vehicles to alternative energy vehicles. Daimler has also decided to increase investment in an electric-vehicle venture with BYD Auto.

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