After 16 years of frozen relations, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) initiated a rapprochement at the beginning of the 1980’s. Indeed, the East German diplomatic services had observed the changes in the PRC since the arrival of Deng Xiaoping and saw a positive signal in the re-examination of the Cultural Revolution by the Chinese Communist Party.
The cultural relations were used by the two states as a leverage to normalize their diplomatic relations. After unofficial contacts, several agreements and protocols were signed which led to the multiplication of academic exchanges (students, researchers, language teaching assistants). The reconnection of the two countries was partly based on a network of former Chinese students who stayed in the GDR in the 1950s and 1960s.
This communication aims at reconstructing the new beginning of the East German-Chinese relations by examining the trajectories of those who stimulated this dynamic and those who participated in the exchange programs. It is based on sources of the German federal archives and on files from university archives. Examining the relationships between the GDR and the PRC in the 1980s reveals how both states defined themselves, how they tried to regain influence and to what extent they impact the balance of power in the socialist bloc. The individual stories of Chinese students in the GDR will thus enlighten the Cold War cultural History.