China – a strong partner in education, research and innovation

China and Germany are important strategic partners in respect to research and education. Both countries have intensified their cooperation in recent decades in order to increase their innovative strength. Common topics include innovation, urbanisation, life sciences, higher education and vocational training, as well as the protection of resources and the environment.

Skyline of Shanghai with photovoltaic systems

© Jeff_Hu / iStock / Thinkstock

Funding opportunities

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Political framework

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, 2018, 2021 and, most recently, 2023 (also see German-Chinese science cooperation: Dialogue in times of limited scope for action - BMBF).

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.

Priorities of the cooperation

At present, key topics of the Sino-German research partnership under the aegis of the BMBF are innovation research (including the former Sino-German Innovation Platform), clean water and environmental technologies, urbanisation and land management, life sciences and bioeconomy, marine and polar research, 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.

Selected measures of the BMBF

Role of the International Bureau

On behalf of the BMBF, the International Bureau aims to expand the international network of German universities, research institutes and companies in order for the German science and industry sectors to gain expertise and obtain the lead in innovation. Thus, the International Bureau contributes to the implementation of the international dimension in the BMBF’s programmes and also provides project funding on behalf of the BMBF. Focus areas of currently funded projects with China managed by the International Bureau are thematic alumni networks, concepts for the development of China expertise at universities and application-oriented projects with industry participation (so-called '2 + 2' projects) in various fields as well as research projects on marine environment and polar research.

In order to acknowledge China's steadily growing importance as a research nation and cooperation partner for Germany, the International Bureau stays in close contact with Chinese project management agencies and ministries. For this purpose, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 19 January 2016 in Beijing between the DLR Project Management Agency and its Chinese partner organisation NCSTE (National Center for Science and Technology Evaluation).