Fei He

Short Bio

Fei He was born in Jilin, China. After three years of study in German Study at Beijing Language and Culture University, she went to Konstanz University of Applied Science through an exchange-program to study Business German and Tourism Management in the year 2007. In 2009 she graduated both bachelor’s degrees from these two Universities. In the same year she started her master’s degree of European Culture and Economy at Ruhr-University Bochum with main interests in European Social Since, Political Science and Economic History. After the graduation she worked as research fellow in the department of Economic History at Ruhr-University Bochum for a year and gave two seminars about Chinese economic policies and German foreign trade in the Cold War. From September 2013 she is funded by the Fritz-Thyssen Foundation for the her research project “The Resumption of Trade Relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the People’s Republic of China 1949-1978” with the research purpose of analyzing the interaction of economy and politics between the two countries in the Cold War.

Title of research

The resumption of trade relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the People's Republic of China 1949-1976

Short abstract of project

The People’s Republic of China (in the following referred to as the PR China) was the third biggest trading partner of Germany in 2012 according to the statics published by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. But the trading relations between these two countries, especially between the PR China and the Federal Republic of Germany (in the following referred to as West Germany) have not always been so successful since the Second World War. The PR China was of no importance in quantitative terms for West German economy for a long time. For example, trading between the PR China and West Germany amounted to just 0.3% of the whole West German foreign trade volume in the year 1972. This was definitely a big trough of the trading history between China and Germany because these two countries had a long and good-working business tradition since Britain had opened the gate of the Chinese empire as a result of the Opium Wars.

Thinking about the cause of this low-point of trading history between the PR China and West Germany, it seems like this should be mostly blamed on the Cold War, since the two countries were in different blocks and in an ideological confrontation. The Cold War was indeed not the best time for the development of the economic relations between the PR China and West Germany: They did not maintain any official diplomatic relations until 1972 and did not have embassies in each other's territory until 1973 because of the so-called "Hallstein Doctrine". It made the risks for the German companies willing to trade with the Chinese extremely high. The power of the USA over West Germany also forced the Germans to keep following the American trading-embargo against the PR China.

But the absence of diplomatic relations and the power of the USA were not the only problems which stood in the way: The bad Chinese economic situation and poor trading ability because of the instable domestic politics such as the "Great Leap Forward" and the "Cultural Revolution" as well as Mao’s constantly aggressive foreign policies against the two super-powers made trading with the communist China almost impossible. Still there were some big German companies trying to reestablish the connection with the Chinese market, because the PR China needed lots of of industrial goods for their after-war rebuild and the further plans of industrialization, especially after the escalation of the Sino-Soviet tensions, which had cut almost all trading relations between the PR China and the rest of the eastern world. In order to reduce the high risks, for example a sudden new American trading-embargo or other inconveniences because of the absence of diplomatic relations, the German industry asked for support by the German government.

As a response the government took part in building a quasi-officially organized institution called "Ost-Ausschuss der Deutschen Wirtschaft", which should help the German industry to get in touch and deal with the Chinese state-owned companies. Furthermore, in 1965 they granted a governmental guarantee for the export to China. But the Chinese communist party, with their politics of self-reliance and the intention of winning more political power by adding economic pressure on trading partners, still hindered the development of trading relations between the two countries, although they needed the German know-how and products to complete their own five-year plans.

The goal of my research project is to understand the complex of the development of the trade relations between the PR China and West Germany in the time phase starting after the Second World War and ending with the Chinese Economic Reform in 1978, which was the turning point of the Chinese economic policy and the trade relations between these two countries.