Navigation and service

12 January 2018

The Fi­nance Min­istry at the Ger­man Em­bassy in Bei­jing

China has become a political heavyweight thanks to the rapid economic growth it has undergone in the past 20–30 years. The Chinese financial markets also count among the most dynamic in the world. Financial Counsellor Nikolai Putscher and his team analyse developments from Beijing and work towards creating closer ties between China and Germany, and the EU.

World Map with Highlight on Beijing
Source:  iStock/Fotolia

The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Beijing comprises sections for political, economic and military affairs as well as sections for culture, press and media, and visa-related matters. The Ambassador is Michael Clauss. The embassy is located in the northern part of the embassy district, in Beijing’s international neighbourhood. The embassy has a total of 200 staff, half of whom are employed by the Federal Foreign Office and other German federal ministries. The other half is made up of Chinese employees, who provide crucial support with communication and linguistic matters.

The German Finance Ministry has two permanent posts at the Beijing embassy, one head of division and one financial counsellor. The team also includes an employee of the Bundesbank, the German central bank. The team is assisted by local staff with financial expertise who help analyse Chinese publications and support communication with Chinese partners. The Finance Division’s main responsibilities are reporting on China’s increasingly complex financial markets, analysing the Chinese economy and assessing any potential risks for the global economy.

In addition to these duties, Finance Division head Nikolai Putscher and his team’s duties include preparing visits by high-ranking visitors from Germany, a responsibility which regularly calls for the German Embassy’s specialist expertise. Furthermore, the Finance Ministry officials in Beijing represent German interests concerning taxation and financial supervision.

The Finance Ministry officials posted to Beijing enjoy the opportunity to actively shape relations between China and Germany, while also living and working in an exciting international environment and a vibrant city.

Interview with Nikolai Putscher

I’ve been working at the Finance Ministry for 25 years now. I started to take an interest in international affairs and East Asia in particular early on, when I was studying economics at university. That’s what led me to take up a post in the Directorate-General for International Economy and Finance at the German Finance Ministry in 1991.

I started my role as Head of Division at the German Embassy in Beijing on 1 March 2016. This is actually my fourth posting abroad – I worked at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C., between 1994 and 1996; at the German Embassy in Tokyo from 1999 to 2002, and at the German Embassy in Beijing from 2005 to 2008.

My wife is a teacher and we have three children, which is why we always chose locations with German schools. Our children also really benefited from going to school in East Asia. The schools there receive excellent funding and offer small class sizes, which generally makes for a good learning environment.

I have a strong interest in East Asia. My master’s dissertation focused on Japan’s economic development in the wake of World War II. I also travelled to China twice for extended stays during my studies. And it hasn’t lost its appeal since. The whole region – especially China – has developed at a breathtaking pace. During my postings there, I was able to experience the transformation up close, as it happened.

Once all three of our children had finished school and left for university, we began wondering whether to stay in Berlin, or whether to embark on further travels. The decision was easily made, especially given that moving to Beijing fits in really well with my current responsibilities at work. At the Finance Ministry, I’d been responsible the negotiations that preceded the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) since 2015. The AIIB opened its doors in January 2016. So I know all the key texts and the history of the negotiations leading up the AIIB’s founding. It all really came together, and becoming one of the AIIB's Executive Directors was the obvious next step.

The German Embassy in Beijing is very organised. While I was still back in Germany, I received an e-mail full of useful information, including a list of German-speaking estate agents and their contact details. That made communication so much easier. Most importantly, it helped us avoid misunderstandings – the legal frameworks governing the property market are so different in China and Germany. And that’s how we were able to find a lovely flat that’s only 20 minutes by foot from the Embassy. There are a lot of shops and good restaurants in our area, and there are also a number of German doctors in Beijing. We enjoy roughly the same standard of living here as we did in Germany.

My wife is a teacher, so she usually leaves the house before me. Thanks to her, I often get to drink coffee in bed, and then I gradually wake up and start my day. From Tuesday to Friday, our work at the Embassy starts with a 9 am meeting where we mainly discuss our analyses and operational matters. Twice a week, we have a big meeting with the Ambassador, the Envoy, the heads of section and the officials posted from all the ministries. For confidentiality reasons, these one-hour meetings take place in a bug-proof room in the Embassy. What we discuss there is of a more strategic nature than at the daily meetings. Plus, the bi-weekly meetings ensure that everyone attending is up to date with the issues that the Ambassador and the other sections are dealing with.

Following the morning meetings, we usually read English-language Chinese newspapers and press reviews, have discussions, read and reply to e-mails, and work on documents. Because of the seven-hour time difference between China and Germany, my day ends quite late. We generally communicate our findings and positions regarding the AIIB or economic trends in China in the late afternoon. If everything goes according to plan, I have the answers to my questions waiting for me in my inbox the following morning.

After work, my wife, friends, colleagues and I will often eat at a restaurant nearby. One of our favourite meals is jiaozi, crescent-shaped dumplings that are stuffed with vegetables, meat and spices. It’s a traditional north Chinese dish that’s often prepared for the Chinese New Year here.

Occasionally, my wife and I also attend cultural events at the German school, or we go to international plays, concerts or to the opera.

The fourth Sino-German intergovernmental consultations in Beijing, in June 2016, were one highlight during my time here, which is going to come to an end relatively soon. During these consultations, former German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble attended several meetings with high-ranking representatives of the Chinese government, including the finance minister and the President’s economic advisor. The preparation and actual organisation of those meetings involved a lot of work for everyone. But it was worth it: A total of twelve intergovernmental agreements were signed.
I will likely be staying in Beijing until August 2019 so it’s hard to say what my plans are at this moment in time. But I do think that I would like to continue working in the area of multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank or the European Investment Bank.
I do have a slight preference for Berlin, for a number of reasons. My wife and I are both active members of a theatre group and really enjoy the breadth of cultural events on offer in Berlin. But the main reason we want to go back is that we want to be closer to our children. Even though we have always managed to spend our Christmas and summer holidays together, it’s always a big effort to make that ten hour flight. Being posted abroad is a wonderful experience, it really broadens your horizons – but nothing quite compares to the feeling of coming home again.

Share and print page