German auto giants Daimler and Volkswagen announced plans Thursday to secure pole positions in China's electric car market as the world's second-biggest economy ramps up investment in cleaner energy.
Coinciding with a visit to Berlin by Chinese premier Li Keqiang, Daimler and VW were among a string of top German companies to unveil major business deals with China.
China, the world's biggest carbon emitter, has been investing billions in clean energy infrastructure and is building up an e-car industry, as its leaders battle to clear up the notorious choking pollution enveloping its biggest cities, including Beijing.
Among the agreements signed in the presence of Li and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the automakers agreed to build electric cars in China, which they described as the world's biggest market for "electromobility".
Daimler said it would take a minority stake in Chinese carmaker BAIC's electric car subsidiary.
At the same time, Daimler will also invest in upgrading the current production facilities at its existing joint venture with BAIC, "paving the way for the introduction of New Energy Vehicle production," the German group said.
"China today is already the world's largest market for new energy vehicles, and Daimler is committed to contributing to the further development of electric mobility in this country," said Daimler's China chief Hubertus Troska.
As for Volkswagen, it announced it would "develop, produce and market electric vehicles as well as mobility services" in a 50-50 joint venture with carmaker JAC.
VW, the world's largest carmaker, aims to sell some 1.5 million electric cars per year in China by 2025, thanks to its deals with JAC and competitors SAIC and FAW.
Its first vehicles jointly designed with JAC are scheduled to roll off the production line in 2018.
- Trump and trade -
Both China and Germany have found themselves under fire recently from US President Donald Trump who lashed out at their massive trade surpluses.
The meeting between Merkel and Li appeared much more good-natured, and Li emphatically said that China welcomed foreign goods.
"China will continue to provide German companies, particularly automobile firms, with a good environment to sell more cars," he told a news conference after talks with Merkel.
"Germany has a massive trade surplus with China, but we're not complaining," he said.
"We're happy for Chinese consumers to have more choices and products. If they pick German goods, we're still happy," Li added.
The German-Chinese projects came as the world waited to learn whether Trump will take the US out of the Paris climate accords.
For China's part, it will "steadfastly" stick by its commitments to reduce carbon emissions by 2030, said Li.
In other deals, German car components suppliers Bosch and Continental also both announced they would collaborate with Chinese internet behemoth Baidu in the area of "connected mobility".
Germany's DZ Bank is teaming up with the China Development Bank (CDB) to finance business and infrastructure investments and trade in both countries, as well as cooperating on capital markets.
And Deutsche Bank, Germany's largest lender, announced Wednesday that it would work with CDB on investments in the "Belt and Road" infrastructure project, which Beijing hopes will deepen trade links between Asia, Europe and Africa.