Germany still enjoys special status for China within Europe.
Germany's reluctance to get involved in foreign military adventures mirrors China's hands-off approach.
And since Merkel's decision to meet the Dalai Lama in 2007, which led to a six-month chill in relations, Germany has been less outspoken about China's human rights record than some of its European partners.
"The Germans are sometimes described in Beijing as the Chinese Europeans - the greatest of compliments," an EU diplomat in Beijing said.
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German firms make the high-quality machinery and equipment that Chinese counterparts need to produce their goods. And German direct investment in China is on the rise again after dipping in 2012, according to Bundesbank data.
Officials at Volkswagen say they have no plans to weaken their commitment to China, where the passenger car market is expected to grow by 5-7 percent annually in the coming years, far higher than other major markets.
VW shrugged off revelations in 2012 that its long-term Chinese partner FAW was stealing technology from their joint venture to produce its own engines and transmission systems.
Its decision to build the first car assembly plant in the politically unstable northwestern region of Xinjiang has won it many new friends in Beijing, said one senior VW official.
But Sebastian Heilmann, director of the new Mercator Institute on Chinese Studies in Berlin, believes the honeymoon period between Germany and China is at an end.
Hopes in Beijing that Germany - and the broader EU - might become a geopolitical counterweight to the United States have been dashed by the closing of transatlantic ranks in the Ukraine crisis and by plans for an ambitious free-trade deal between Brussels and Washington.
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For German companies, the promise of the Chinese market has become clouded by a less rosy economic picture, consumer protection crackdowns targeting foreign firms, cyber-security concerns and political risks.
"There is a degree of disenchantment setting in," said Heilmann. "Many managers are being forced to recalibrate: instead of racking up record sales, they are suddenly being forced to cope with structural change and cost cutting."
Sandschneider of the DGAP says "diversification" is now the big theme for German industry.
"Nobody wants all their eggs in the uncertain Chinese basket," he says.