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Berlin (AFP) Oct 10, 2012
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will travel to China on Wednesday with a delegation of major business figures to mark 40 years of diplomatic relations between the countries, a spokesman said.
The visit, running to Saturday, will include a "strategic dialogue" with his counterpart Yang Jiechi and Vice-Premier Li Kequiang on issues including Syria, Iran's nuclear programme, trade ties, human rights and the eurozone crisis.
North Korea and fears over an escalation of a dispute between Tokyo and Beijing over a Japan-administered island chain that both countries claim will also figure on the agenda, spokesman Andreas Peschke added.
Westerwelle will also meet with independent bloggers and open a new German consulate in the northeastern city of Shenyang, the country's fifth in China.
Westerwelle will have 11 business executives from Europe's top economy on board.
"Germany and China have enjoyed 40 years of increasingly close diplomatic ties," Peschke told reporters.
"Integrating China into an ever-more globalised world order with new power centres in Asia, Africa and Latin America is one of the key questions of our time."
Diplomatic sources also said Berlin was keen to "feel the political pulse" in Beijing ahead of a once-in-a-decade transition next month, when President Hu Jintao will cede his position as head of the Communist Party to Vice-President Xi Jinping.
They added that Westerwelle sought to improve the working conditions of foreign correspondents in China after complaints of state interference.
It will be Westerwelle's second visit to China this year, following talks between the two governments in Beijing in August led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and China's premier Wen Jiabao.
With the three-year-old eurozone debt crisis showing signs of spreading to China, the world's second largest economy, Beijing views Germany as a key player in tackling the problem.
Germany is China's top trade partner in the European Union with nearly half of all European exports to China coming from Germany. Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of all EU imports from China land in Germany.
Bilateral trade between the two powers reached $169 billion in 2011, an 18.9-percent rise on the previous year.
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