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Chinese-German friendship marked at Frankfurt awards ceremony

Peter Oliver in Frankfurt

 , Updated 22:26, 29-Jan-2024

People who have striven to promote Chinese-German friendship over recent decades have been honored at a ceremony in Frankfurt over the weekend. Those recognised for their efforts came from the worlds of business, culture, sport and everywhere in between.

Guests were treated to traditional Chinese musical and dance performances at the event, hosted by the Chinese Consular General Huang Yiyang. 

Awards were given to eight German people who had made a significant and sustained effort to bring their country closer to China and the Chinese people. CGTN spoke to a few of those being honored.


Karl-Heinz Gass has a 43-year association with China. He strove to build economic and artistic ties between the two countries.

Some of his Chinese collections from his travels were donated to the consulate to display five years ago. Gass told CGTN that his whole connection with China began because of a chance encounter with a Chinese official.

He said: "It was a coincidence in Switzerland, and it started something because I ended up taking over 300 flights to Beijing, and I was there for at least three years. I went to China because when I came there, I got through to the people, and they had respect for me. And I told them the truth about everything."


Thomas Rabe is keeping alive one-and-a-half centuries of his family's relationship with China. His grandfather was John Rabe, who was CEO of the Siemens company in China and was in Nanjing during the Japanese invasion of World War Two.

Using a large number of documents from the time that still exist, including his grandfather's diaries, Thomas has written a book about John Rabe, whose leadership in the creation of safe zones in Nanjing saved a quarter of a million Chinese civilian lives.

Speaking to CGTN, he said that writing the book allowed him to get closer to who his grandfather was as a person and a leader.

He explained: "Looking at him (my grandfather), I admire him because he is an example of moral leadership for humanitarianism. And what he did here for the Chinese people is that if you save one life, you can save a complete world, which is mentioned in the Talmud here. And my grandfather also said to observe that never leave a friend alone here if he is in danger."

Thomas Rabe (left) at the awards ceremony in Frankfurt. /CGTN
Thomas Rabe (left) at the awards ceremony in Frankfurt. /CGTN

Thomas Rabe (left) at the awards ceremony in Frankfurt. /CGTN

Both China and Germany have a strong passion for sport, and in 1992, when Klaus Schlappner became the first foreigner to coach the Chinese men's football team, those two worlds came together. 

Schlappner led China to the semi-finals of the Asian Cup and changed a few crucial internal structures of the national side to bring them into line with other nations. However, there were a few hurdles to overcome, not least how he communicated with the players. 

A native of the Heidelberg region, his strong regional accent didn't end up causing too many issues.

He explained: "I had an excellent interpreter who was in Germany for six months at the Göttingen Institute and also in Heidelberg. And I come from this corner of Heidelberg, Mannheim. And they speak this (certain) dialect, and he understood it."

Klaus Schlappner was the first foreign coach to lead the Chinese men's football team./CFP
Klaus Schlappner was the first foreign coach to lead the Chinese men's football team./CFP

Klaus Schlappner was the first foreign coach to lead the Chinese men's football team./CFP

Schlappner said the language of football was more important than his lack of understanding of Chinese. "You don't have to understand as much with words as we do at the training ground. Then the players saw whether I was in a good mood or not."

One of the things Schlappner looked to ingrain in the Chinese men's football setup was that the squad should spend more time together.

"I also tried a lot, a lot, a lot to get the players to Beijing all the time because it wasn't the case before. They were with their teams, and then they arrived the day before for the international match."

Whether in business, humanitarianism, sport and beyond, there are many connections between China and Germany and the celebration in Frankfurt was as much about honoring the past as it was to look towards many more years of friendship between the two nations.

Chinese-German friendship marked at Frankfurt awards ceremony

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