Li Qiang, Premier of China, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, at the end of their press statement at the German Chancellery, Berlin. June 20, 2023. Credit: Kay Nietfeld/picture-alliance/dpa via AP Images Germany’s policy towards China has always been strongly driven by business interests. That has resulted in some impressive figures. More than 5,000 German companies operate in China, employing more than one million staff, while for German carmakers like BMW, Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz, the country is the most important market, with roughly every third of the cars they produce being sold there. Other industries, including electrical engineering and chemicals have major interests in the world’s second-largest economy; in 2022, Sino-German trade volumes reached a record 298 billion euros ($332 billion). The long-held assumption of German leaders, notably former chancellor Angela Merkel, has been that intensifying mutual trade relations would at some point lead to political change in China, an idea known in German as ‘Wandel durch Handel’ (change through trade). This idea has been a trademark — some would say ‘fig leaf’ — of Germany’s China policy for years. Since thSubscribe or login to read the rest. Subscribers get full access to: Exclusive longform investigative journalism, Q&As, news and analysis, and data on Chinese business elites and corporations. We publish China scoops you won't find anywhere else. A weekly curated reading list on China from David Barboza, Pulitzer Prize-winning former Shanghai correspondent for The New York Times. A daily roundup of China finance, business and economics headlines. We offer discounts for groups, institutions and students. Go to our Subscriptions page for details.