Extending the Silk Road

Regional political leaders welcome the arrival of first freight train connecting Anhui province with northwestern Germany.

On 13 July 2021, at exactly 12:38 p.m., Lower Saxony state premier Stephan Weil and the mayor of the German coastal city of Wilhelmshaven, Carsten Feist, welcomed the first direct train from China on its arrival at the Jade-Weser-Port freight centre. Speaking of the importance of this new rail trade route, Stephan Weil praised this rail infrastructure project through Lower Saxony, saying that this new rail connection will play an active role in China’s “New Silk Road”.

Travelling via Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland, the train took 19 days to travel from Hefei before reaching its final destination in Wilhelmshaven. The city of Hefei (合肥市) itself looks back on a very long history indeed. During the Chu kingdom (楚国), it was the site of a number of small states, first getting it name Hefei during the Han dynasty (汉朝 206BC-220AD), yet the city itself dates back to the Song Dynasty (宋朝 960-1279).

Today, it is the capital and largest city of the eastern Chinese province of Anhui (安徽省), home to eight million people. Hefei is a world-leading centre for scientific research and higher education. Many Chinese universities are located in the city. In 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Hefei University together with the Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang (李克强).

Some of the former leaders of Lower Saxony, such as Ernst Albrecht, Sigmar Gabriel and Christian Wulff, have paid high-level visits to the Anhui’s capital, seeking to deepen ties between the German federal state and the eastern Chinese province. This collaboration between Lower Saxony and Anhui dates back to 1984, making it the oldest partnership between a German state and a province of the People’s Republic of China.

Wilhelmshaven, on the other hand, is a young city with around 77,000 inhabitants. Once planned as an important deep-water port by the Prussian King Wilhelm, who later became German Emperor Wilhelm I, it gained a reputation after the Second World War as a run-down city affected by depopulation and deprivation. Named after the Jade and Weser rivers which flow into the North Sea, the Jade-Weser-Port has started to breathe new life into the city since its inception in 2012. The port still has capacity to increase its freight consumption and has significant advantages over other ports. Head of the Jade-Weser-Port-Marketing GmbH, Andreas Bullwinkel, spoke of the advantages of Wilhelmshaven’s location, such as the short distance between the sea and the train network.

The Chinese Consul General, Mr. Du Xiaohui (杜哓晖), based in Hamburg, showcased the benefits of the new “Silk Road” in his speech. He spoke of Hefei and Wilhelmshaven as being bridgeheads of the “New Silk Road”, internationally known as “One Belt – One Road (一带一路)”. 140 countries and 32 organizations have signed up to the “One Belt – Road” initiative, which got underway in 2013.

The first train from Hefei to Wilhelmshaven carried one-hundred Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) containers with household items, electrical appliances and textile goods. From the perspective of retail companies in Germany and across Europe, rail transport is an interesting alternative, not least because the goods can be transported faster than by ship, which normally takes around 30 days from Shanghai to Wilhelmshaven via the Suez Canal.

Recent disruption to international shipping with the grounding of the Ever Given container ship in the Suez Canal has revealed shortcomings in conventional shipping routes to transport goods from Asia to Europe. As one of the world’s most important trading routes connecting the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea, the six-day blockage of the Suez Canal has an immediate knock-on impact of global supply chains. It did much to illustrate the vulnerability of what is the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe, highlighting the need for other trading routes to relieve the Suez Canal of the stresses and strains exerted by mega container ships. This is where the railways may well come into play, and gain in importance over the coming decades. Indeed, freight trains from China have been arriving regularly in German cities, such as Duisburg and Hamburg, since 2019. This new Trans-Eurasian trade route not only links Hefei and Wilhelmshaven, but also serves other cities on the route. This Hefei-Wilhelmshaven maiden journey saw containers being unloaded in Poland, for instance.

Many critical questions arise regarding the new Hefei-Wilhelmshaven trade route, including whether freight trains are a viable alternative to large cargo ships. Though freight trains may offer a less polluting form of transportation, they are unlikely to replace the dominant form of sea freight transport or become a major competitor. Train freight capacity is no match for a freighter that can transport up to 23,000 containers across the seas and oceans. And yet, space on freighters is becoming increasingly scarce and expensive, so much so that freight transportation by rail may be able to offer a cost-effective, though somewhat limited alternative, given the substantial difference in capacity carriage.

There are also the questions of who gains from such a trade route. Who precisely is the winner? Which countries benefit the most? The flow of goods on the railways between China and Germany is practically a one-sided venture as the demand for Chinese goods in Europe is so enormous. Chinese producers, then, use the route to supply their manufactured goods to the German and, more broadly, European markets. Use of the Jade-Weser-Port in Wilhelmshaven with its spare capacity lends itself to the storage and distribution of these incoming goods, especially considering its logistics trans-shipment centre which sells Chinese goods in Europe. Increased trade in Wilhelmshaven will undoubtedly lead to more employment opportunities in the local region, turning around the fortunes of a once run-down city.

The maiden Hefei-Wilhelmshaven journey is the initial first step with countless opportunities in the pipeline. Northwestern Germany itself can benefit on many levels. The second container train from the Chinese province Anhui has since arrived in Wilhelmshaven with companies taking advantage of available capacity in Wilhelmshaven. Whilst storage space has become scarce in Germany in recent years, Wilhelmshaven still has about 60 hectares of total 160 hectares still available. Many investors are bound to be reviewing their strategy. These developments are helping Wilhelmshaven to expand its network with the world. In doing so, it is seeking to move away from its reputation as a run-down city towards becoming a vibrant trading post with China and the wider world.

Familie Stielow in Tsingtau

Minna Günther wurde am 22. Februar 1886 in Prerow an der Ostsee geboren. Dort auf dem Darß wohnten ihre Großeltern. Ihre Eltern hatten 1880 in Mecklenburg geheiratet und waren dann nach Wilhelmshaven gezogen, wo ihr Vater als Schiffszimmermann Arbeit fand. Im Wilhelmshavener Adressbuch von 1884 wurde Ferdinand Günther als Werftschiffsbauer in der Ostfriesenstraße 21 geführt. Hier wurde auch Minnas ältere Schwester Marie 1881 geboren. 1892 wurde die jüngste Tochter Johanna geboren. Im Juli 1898 starb die Mutter, Minna war gerade zwölf Jahre alt. Der Vater von drei Kindern heiratete im gleichen Jahr die Witwe Johanna Scharmberg. Nach dem Adressbuch von 1900 lebte die Familie in der Alten Straße 20 und Ferdinand trug den Titel Werksführer. Familie Stielow in Tsingtau weiterlesen

Ernst August Troschel

Ernst Troschel wurde am 16. April 1868 in Stargard in Westpommern geboren. Nach der Schulzeit studierte er Wasserbau an der Technischen Hochschule Charlottenburg. Nachdem er das Studium erfolgreich abschloss, wurde er in den Staatsdienst übernommen und spezialisierte sich auf Hafenbau und Werftanlagen. Er arbeitete in verschiedenen Städten an der Ostsee und in Berlin.

Im Sommer 1895 heiratete er in Schöneberg die Medizinstudentin Elise Schulz. Er hielt es für selbstverständlich, dass Elise ihr Ziel, Ärztin zu werden, weiter verfolgte. Ernst August Troschel weiterlesen

奥尔登堡五年游

2015年夏天的科隆,我用颤抖的手,伴随着激动的心,风风火火撕开了来自奥尔登堡大学的录取通知书。这意味着此前一年在科隆的语言班时光画上了圆满的句号。从那一刻起,我认为我在德国的学习生活才算正式开启。然而首当其冲的事情就是在奥尔登堡找到一个属于自己的房间,但是此时此刻我并不知道如何走出这第一步。所以我直接来到了奥尔登堡大学中寻找中国人的面孔。随后在学校图书馆里结识了一位大姐,通过她进入了奥尔登堡中国学生会的群。在通过了大学语言班之后,需要完成本科的补修之后,才能正式开启硕士的课程。刚踏入正式的专业学习,我发现通过了DSH德语考试只是德语学习的起点。除了语法不错之外,口语、听力和阅读还根本跟不上课程的节奏。但是幸运的是, 奥尔登堡五年游 weiterlesen

Die Christuskirche in Qingdao

Der erste Gottesdienst im Schutzgebiet Tsingtau im Jahr 1898 fand in der Reitbahn der Matrosenartilleriekaserne statt, so berichtete es Pfarrer Richard Wilhelm. Im gleichen Jahr wurde mit dem Bau einer Kapelle an der Bismarckstraße direkt neben der Knabenschule begonnen.

Die evangelische Gouvernementskapelle wurde am Heiligabend des Jahres 1899 eingeweiht. Richard Wilhelm hielt die Weiherede. Die Weihnachtspredigt hielt Carl Johannes Voskamp. Das Gebäude soll erst um 1991 abgerissen worden sein. Die Christuskirche in Qingdao weiterlesen

Der Gouvernements-Oberpfarrer Ludwig Ferdinand Winter

Ludwig Winter wurde am 28. März 1868 in Wittenberg geboren. Sein Vater Dr. Adolf Ferdinand Winter war in Wittenberg Gymnasiallehrer, wurde später nach Magdeburg und anschließend nach Stralsund als Gymnasialdirektor versetzt. Dort legte Ludwig Winter sein Abitur ab. Anschließend studierte er evangelische Theologie in Greifswald und Berlin. 1894 trat er eine Vikarzeit in Gladau (Sachsen) an und seit dem 26. März 1895 war er persönlicher Hilfsprediger des Generalsuperintendenten von Berlin, Wilhelm Adolf Reinhold Faber, der ihm kurze Zeit darauf die Seelsorge im neugegründeten Pfarramt Neu-Rahnsdorf bei Berlin übertrug. Der Gouvernements-Oberpfarrer Ludwig Ferdinand Winter weiterlesen

The story of Imperial Judge Dr. jur. Georg Crusen and his villa Jiangsu Road No. 27

Copyright (text and photos) by Wang Dong, Qingdao

In the heart of Qingdao’s historical and protected area, there is a century-old boulevard. During the German lease period, it was named Bismarck-Straße (now Jiangsu Road). As one of the earliest streets in Qingdao, the Jiangsu Road runs from the north to the south through the old city and reaches the Qingdao Bay. The old houses along the street were built more than 100 years ago and have survived to this day. Their long history and often-elegant styles attract many visitors who enjoy their facades and interiors. Among these old buildings, there is one particular century-old house that was built in a rustic style. It is located at the top of the slope on the northern side of the street, at the remarkable six roads intersection (Jiangsu Road, Guanxiang 1st Road, Suzhou Road, Laiwu 1st Road, Fulong Road and Longshan Road). This old building with red tiles and yellow walls has survived throughout the past century, but for a long time, it was not well known. The story of Imperial Judge Dr. jur. Georg Crusen and his villa Jiangsu Road No. 27 weiterlesen

Wer war Fanny?

Oldenburg, Shanghai, Singapur, Sydney, Havanna. Wo ist Fanny Kirchner geblieben?

In den 1850er Jahren war der Schiffsbau im Oldenburger Großherzogtum und ganz speziell in Brake mit einem wirtschaftlichen Aufschwung verbunden. Neben der „Oldenburgischen Rhederei-Gesellschaft“ und der „Oldenburg-Ostindischen Rhederei“ entstand die „Visurgis Actien-Gesellschaft für Rhederei und Schiffbau“. Im Jahr 1855 wurde die hölzerne Dreimastbark „Stadland“ vom Stapel gelassen; kurze Zeit später wurde sie auf den Namen „Fanny Kirchner” getauft.

Die „Visurgis Rhederei” mit Sitz in Oldenburg beteiligte sich zu jener Zeit am Walfang. Ende der 1850er Jahre wurde die „Fanny”, wie sie liebevoll genannt wurde, von der Reederei H. Bischoff in Bremen befrachtet und im Ostasienhandel eingesetzt.

Wer war Fanny? weiterlesen