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The research cooperation between the two countries is based on an 1978 intergovernmental agreement on scientific and technological cooperation. Ever since, topics and framework conditions of the cooperation are addressed in regular meetings which are attended by representatives of the research ministries of both countries, and of research, funding and intermediary organisations as well as individual scientists.
Strategic education policy meetings with the Chinese Ministry of Education have been aiming to encourage further educational cooperation between the two countries since 2004 (until 2009 there were so-called strategic higher education policy dialogues). In addition, regular meetings of the German-Chinese Alliance for Vocational Education and Training have been held since 2011. In June 2016, both committees were merged, forming the German-Chinese Steering Group for Education based on a Memorandum of Understanding. The Steering Group’s first meeting took place in December 2017.
Research and education cooperation were further deepened with the introduction of the German-Chinese Intergovernmental Consultations that took place in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016 and, most recently, 2018.
The Joint Action Plan 'Shaping innovation together!', which was adopted during the third intergovernmental consultations in October 2014, encourages a strategic partnership of both countries also in those fields that fall within the remit of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
From 2015 until the end of 2019, the China Strategy of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research set the coherent and systematic framework for cooperation with China in research, science and education.
At present, key topics of the Sino-German research partnership under the aegis of the BMBF are (including the former Sino-German Innovation Platform), and environmental technologies, urbanisation and land management, life sciences and bioeconomy, , climate research, electromobility, digital economy (Industry 4.0) as well as higher and vocational education and exchange of students and scientists.
In addition, the BMBF supports the establishment of thematic alumni networks and promotes the expansion of China competence in Germany in a joint effort with the Federal Foreign Office and the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs.