In the midst of the Cold War, in April 1974, a delegation from the Max Planck Society, headed by the President at that time, Reimar Lüst, dared to go into unchartered territory. They returned with mutual verbal promises to exchange scientists. Even before the Second World War, many Chinese scientists had studied and done research in Germany. This connection was something that the Max Planck Society wanted to pick up on. The first official visit by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) to Germany was led by Prof. Zhou Peiyuan, who had even studied under Albert Einstein.
What was then seen as a risky venture soon developed an astounding dynamic. The partnerships that the Max Planck Society has established with CAS are closer than with any other scientific organisation from a non-European area. In the course of the more than 30 years that the cooperation has lasted, around 2,000 Chinese scientists have spent long stretches of time conducting research at Max Planck institutes - and just as many German scientists have worked in China.
Today, around ten per cent of all foreign junior scientists and visiting scientists at Max Planck Institutes come from China, which is almost twice the figure of 1998. It is a clear testimony to the success of the partnership that around one third of all senior and directorial positions in CAS have been filled with scientists who have trained in Germany.
In the first years of the cooperation, the focus was placed on education and advanced education of scholarship holders. A guest laboratory was established at the CAS Institute of Cell Biology in Shanghai in the 1980s. Here, together with Chinese colleagues, German scientists conduct research and teach Chinese junior scientists.