China mourns death of former German chancellor

A memorial of flowers, candles, farewell letters and photographs of late former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is placed in front of his house in Hamburg, northern Germany, on November 11, 2015.
PHOTO: AFP

The death of former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt is being mourned deeply in China, which highly appreciates his contribution to ties between the two countries, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Schmidt, 96, died on Tuesday.

Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that throughout his political life Schmidt made a tremendous contribution to improving Sino-German relations and European integration.

Hong said Schmidt was a pioneer and driver of ties between the two nations and also a politician and strategist who commanded global respect. His death is a big loss to Germany and the world.

Ma Canrong, a former Chinese ambassador to Germany who spent most of his professional life in the European country, said Schmidt was frank, assertive, steadfast, discerning and "areal China hand".

Ma was first posted to the former West Germany in 1973 and served there until 1981, largely coinciding with Schmidt's term as chancellor from 1974 to 1982.

Schmidt made a state visit to China in 1975, becoming the first German chancellor to visit the country since diplomatic relations were established in 1972.

Ma said Schmidt firmly supported China's reform and opening-up policy and had long predicted the nation's rapid development.

"He once said there would be three major international currencies in the world - the dollar, the euro and the renminbi," the former envoy recalled.

Having developed a "good personal relationship" with Schmidt over the years, Ma said Schmidt remained influential in Germany and the world after serving as chancellor.

"His advice and judgments were valued not only by his successors but also by the public, as he was such a magnetic speaker and eloquent debater," Ma said. "He was even called' Schmidt the Lip' in his early years."

"I went to him for advice and devoted a chapter to him in my memoirs when my term as ambassador ended in 2009."

Gu Junli, a German studies expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, "From 1972 to 1975, ties between China and Germany developed but at a slow pace. It was Schmidt who pushed the bilateral relationship forward.

"The new oriental policy of Willy Brandt (Schmidt's predecessor) improved the relationship between Germany and the Soviet Union, but Schmidt then extended Germany's olive branch more toward China."

Schmidt was the only German chancellor to be received by Mao Zedong, and he also knew other Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and Hu Jintao, personally.

Based on his deep understanding of China, Schmidt wrote many works about the country, helping to introduce it to the world.

Gu said Schmidt did not view China through the "tinted spectacles of Western values", and held a relatively objective view of the country and its development.

Current German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed Schmidt as a mastermind of international co-operation whose decisions continue to have an effect today.

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