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Germany also thinks China may do more than Britain or the United States to shore up the euro and ease the euro crisis.

Chinese government investments are unknown. But in the past, China propped up southern European debtors, taking losses on Greek bonds, German officials say.

Still, in her rush to cozy up to China, Mrs. Merkel has underplayed human rights concerns, critics say.

“She still talks occasionally about human rights, but the Chinese officials and analysts we talked to suggested that was for domestic media consumption, but they didn’t take it too seriously,” Mr. Kundnani said.

The German government insisted that Mrs. Merkel is committed to human rights in China.

“Questions of human rights and social development are always on the agenda,” said a government official, who asked not to be identified because he was not permitted to be quoted by name.

“The intensity [of those discussions] has not changed. The close relationship between the chancellor and the prime minister has even led to a situation where all questions are put on the agenda and discussed.”

German opposition lawmakers say that other human rights matters, including political prisoners, should have been tackled with the Chinese government during last week’s visit.

“Human rights was a minor issue in her trip,” said Tom Koenigs, chairman of the German parliament’s human rights committee. “We cannot stop exchanging views on human rights.

“It’s a question of face-saving,” he said. “The Chinese are always very fond of face-saving issues. For us, it is a face-saving issue that we keep our values.”

• Sumi Somaskanda in Berlin contributed to this report.