German chancellor Angela Merkel heads to Beijing today for the ninth time since taking office.
The trip comes as she faces criticism at home for failing to speak out more strongly about rights violations in Turkey.
It also comes in the midst of a furious debate over Chinese takeovers in Europe, with some politicians calling for tougher restrictions following a recent offer by home appliance maker Midea for German robotics firm Kuka.
“We have a proliferation and intensification of hidden and open conflicts in the German-Chinese relationship,” said Sebastian Heilmann, head of the MERICS think tank in Berlin.
“We won’t be able to avoid tough conflicts with China in the next months and years. This will be a difficult trip.”
Ms Merkel is travelling with six of her ministers and a large industry delegation that is expected to include the CEOs of blue-chips like Volkswagen, BMW, Siemens, ThyssenKrupp, Lufthansa, and Airbus.
She will dine with Chinese premier Li Keqiang tomorrow and president Xi Jinping on Monday. In between, she and Li will attend a meeting with business leaders at which German firms are expected to openly voice their frustrations with conditions in the Chinese market.
On Tuesday, she is due to travel to the northern “rust belt” city of Shenyang to visit a BMW plant.
Between 2005 and 2014, German exports to China more than tripled to €74bn.
In 2015, however, exports to China declined year-on-year for the first time in nearly two decades.