Civil society cooperation – which includes youth and expert exchanges – is an important element of bilateral relations between Germany and China. “We cannot overstate the value of our civil society cooperation,” said Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s Federal Foreign Minister, during the opening ceremony on 24 May 2017. “It certainly does not simply supplement our political relations – it is an essential part of them.” As China’s Vice Premier Liu Yandong explained, “To achieve peace in the world, we need to overcome our differences in the spirit of friendship.” In her address, Ms Liu rejected the notion of protectionism and isolation, stating that this was no way to address global challenges.
The aim of the Dialogue Mechanism is to strengthen relations between China and Germany. The two countries signed an agreement on a new civil society dialogue; from now on, the high-level dialogue will be repeated every other year.
Part of the dialogue: youth exchanges
One core element of the People-to-People Dialogue was the Forum for International Youth Exchange, with special emphasis given to educational institutions. “Youth policy is inconceivable without youth exchanges,” said Director-General Bettina Bundszus, head of the Department of Children and Youth at Germany’s Federal Youth Ministry, in her address. “Youth policy has to be international and must be shaped by the experiences that young people make during their exchanges to other countries.”
The Forum for International Youth Exchange delivered detailed insights into the youth work structures in both countries and good practice examples, and involved workshops on the structure, administration and planning of youth educational institutions. A field visit to an educational and leisure centre rounded off the programme.
A tried-and-tested partnership
An expert dialogue on youth took place already on the afternoon of day 1, when the All-China Youth Federation invited representatives of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, German Sports Youth, the German Youth Hostel Association and IJAB – the International Youth Service of the Federal Republic of Germany for talks. The All-China Youth Federation has been a major partner for the Federal Youth Ministry for over a decade, and is also an important partner for IJAB in the context of German-Chinese youth and expert exchanges. “Our joint expert programmes, but also our many youth exchanges over the years have resulted in a working atmosphere built on trust. And they have given us a deeper understanding of each other’s youth work activities,” said IJAB Director Marie-Luise Dreber.