Emanuel Geibel was not a brilliant poet and this line is taken out of one of his works glorifying the “German soul” as a quint essence to heal the world. It is a very arrogant claim and it made its way into the verbal repertoire of the so-called German Emperor William II. During a time in which the big colonial forces were cutting the global cake, he wanted to be a player. Since the 1850s Germany wanted to strengthen its trading activities in the Far East by a military backbone. The murder of two German missionaries was used to invade Qingdao under the command of Otto von Diederichs and China had to give in the force by signing a 99 year lease agreement in 1898. These actions later were seen as the time of “Kanonenbootpolitik” (Battleship politics) bringing wide parts in the Pacific under German “protection”. In 1900 the Boxer Rebellion have William II to jointly with the other colonial forces, in the “Eight Army Alliance” invade China. His speech with which he saluted the depart of the German navy from Bremerhafen made it into the historical records as “Hunnenrede” in which he demands the troops to ensure that never again in history “a Chinese will even dare to look at a German”. Luckily, when German troops arrived in China, most of the fighting was already over. Unfortunately, it is not unimaginable anymore, what happens when the “German spirit” hits on demonized victims, whether they are enemies or not.
Germany tried to develop Qingdao into a role model of a colony. It was planned and designed following the most advanced urban development models of that time. It had communication cable connection to Shanghai and the port was more important at times than Hong Kong and Shanghai. Japan saw an obstacle in Qingdao being under German control and in 1914 still 5000 Germans were defending the city three months against 30 000 Japanese and were defeated in November.
Today, Qingdao is one of the most charming urban areas in China. The German settlement is in an amazing good condition and imbedded into a city full of green parks and close to the marinas of the 2008 Olympic marine disciplines. People are nice, strait forward, polite and surprisingly tall. I was told that the Chinese “dream husbands” come from Shandong Province and it is easy to see why. Like all Chinese cities, Qingdao is developing very fast. But in this special case, the city planners managed to preserve the historical heritage exceptionally well and integrate it into a modern city.