China signed a $3.5 billion deal to buy 50 Airbus jets Thursday during a visit by German leader Angela Merkel, who sought to reassure Beijing that Europe is committed to overcoming the eurozone crisis.
Merkel, on her second visit to Beijing in just seven months, conceded in talks with China's Premier Wen Jiabao that the crisis that has engulfed the eurozone was not yet over, but said reforms were starting to take effect.
"I told Premier Wen that very many reforms are going on now, and that there is an absolute political will to turn the euro into a strong currency again," she said in a joint press conference after the discussions.
Her comments came as China agreed to buy 50 A320 jets from European plane maker Airbus, part of a raft of deals between the two world economic powers, eager to bolster trade amid signs both are being hit by Europe's debt turmoil.
With the nearly three-year-old economic crisis showing signs of spreading to China, the world's second-largest economy, Beijing views Germany as a key player in tackling the problem.
Wen said he had been reassured by his talks with Merkel and China would continue to invest in the European Union, but that "serious concerns" remained.
"China is willing, on condition of fully evaluating the risks, to continue to invest in the eurozone sovereign debt market," he said.Beijing was prepared to "strengthen communication and discussion with the European Union, the European Central Bank, the IMF and other key countries to support the indebted eurozone countries in overcoming hardships", he added.
Europeans have expressed the hope that China could deploy some of its foreign exchange reserves -- the world's largest -- to invest in European Union bailout funds, although there is little sign of this happening yet.
Germany is China's top trade partner in the European Union, with nearly half of all European exports to China coming from Germany, and almost a quarter of all EU imports from China landing in the country.
Trade between the two reached $169 billion in 2011, an 18.9 percent rise on the previous year.
On Thursday, German automaker Volkswagen signed a $290 million agreement to build a production facility in the eastern port city of Tianjin as part of a package of deals worth $3.2 billion.
These were in addition to China's $3.5 billion Airbus purchase and also included an extension to the European plane maker's manufacturing presence in China and a $12.5 million deal involving Eurocopter, details of which were not given.
Merkel, accompanied by a high-level business delegation, also indicated she would not support a call by more than 20 European solar panel makers for the European Commission to impose tariffs to punish their Chinese rivals.
The European manufacturers allege their Chinese counterparts received subsidies from Beijing and sold goods below costs, which China has deniedChancellor Merkel was also expected to raise sensitive topics such as the Syrian crisis, human rights and press freedom in China during her talks with Wen, although these were not mentioned at the subsequent press conference.
Before her visit, German journalists in the country wrote Merkel a letter saying authorities in Beijing had been "wilfully obstructing" their work by threatening not to renew their visas and intimidating local assistants.
China has joined Russia in repeatedly using their vetoes on the UN Security Council to scuttle resolutions aimed at tackling the deadly conflict in Syria, putting them at odds with Western powers.
A German official confirmed that the topic of human rights would also be on the agenda, amid pressure on Merkel to raise the issue of Tibet.
Merkel also met China's President Hu Jintao later Thursday in Beijing and will head to Tianjin on Friday to visit an Airbus assembly line.