Thorning-Schmidt's plans strategic trip to China
At the invitation of the Chinese government, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt will pay an official visit to China on September 10-13.
"I have a good feeling [about] and strong interest in China. I look forward very much to my upcoming visit to China. I will make joint efforts with Chinese leaders to deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership between our countries, " said Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt in an exclusive interview with Xinhua at Christiansborg on Thursday.
On her visit, Thorning-Schmidt will meet Chinese leaders and entrepreneurs from both China and Denmark, as well as attend the World Economic Forum conference in Tianjin. This will be her first visit to China since she was elected prime minister – the first female PM in Denmark's history – in September last year.
Thorning-Schmidt said she is confident that the two countries' strategic and economic relations are at their highest level yet, and will only get better in the future. The growing partnership has paved the way for better collaboration in trade, science, technology, culture and education sectors, among others.
Observers here expect that the two states will sign of series of agreements on expanding cooperation in these areas.
“I believe the partnership is based on trade and economic cooperation with each other, but also cultural exchange, and this is exactly what we are doing,” Thorning-Schmidt said. “I think the Chinese-Danish relationship is excellent, and now I am going to China to deepen our relationship because I believe it can be an advantage for both China and Denmark.”
Thorning-Schmidt's trip is a follow-up to Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Denmark in June this year, the first ever such visit by a Chinese head of state to this Scandinavian nation.
“We were very honoured to have President Hu visiting Denmark in the summer and we had an excellent meeting with him and many other Chinese ministers accompanying him,”Thorning-Schmidt said.
Hu's visit raised the bar for Sino-Danish ties, resulting in 17 agreements in areas such as investment, tariffs, energy, agriculture and culture. It also led to the signing of business deals worth 3.4 billion US. dollars between Danish and Chinese companies in sectors including clean energy technologies, health, and food products such as dairy and meat.
The increased commercial cooperation rides on rising Danish exports to China, which is Denmark’s biggest export market outside the European Union (EU). In fact, Danish exports to China have increased almost 12 percent in the first six months of 2012, after bilateral trade touched a historic high of 9.26 billion dollars in 2011.
Economics remains central to bilateral ties, and Thorning-Schmidt will use her visit as an opportunity to highlight Danish businesses in China. Accompanied by captains of Danish industry, she will visit Danish companies based in Wuqing and Shanghai, and make a presentation at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin.
Commenting on potential areas for deal making and strengthening cooperation during her trip, Thorning-Schmidt pointed to Denmark's traditional stronghold sectors, saying they are of interest to the Chinese government and consumers.
“We are very good in terms of water, wind, clean energy, food production; and what I want to tell the Chinese is that Denmark is an interesting country to invest in and Chinese companies are more than welcome to come to Denmark to try and invest,” she said.
She added that the green energy sector, climate-related industries, clean water solutions, food safety and agricultural products remain key areas for growing cooperation between the two countries.
“We want in each of these different areas to ask if there is something where this partnership can be a plus-sum [game], where it can benefit both China and Denmark. This is what we want to try to achieve,” she said, referring to her priorities for her trip.
Other Danish ministers are also making trips to China surrounding Thorning-Schmidt’s visit in efforts to further ties in economic, environmental and cultural areas.
For instance, Denmark’s minister of business and growth, Ole Sohn visited from August 25 to September 2, where he discussed cooperation in the maritime sector, tourism and patent protection rights.
Meanwhile, Danish minister of trade and investment Pia Olsen Dyhr is visiting China from Sept. 7 to 11, where she will meet potential Chinese investors and Chinese minister of trade Chen Deming.
Denmark and China have enjoyed warm diplomatic ties for the past 62 years, and forged a comprehensive strategic partnership covering political, economic, cultural and other affairs in 2008.
While economic relations are paramount, Thorning-Schmidt was keen to stress the softer aspects of Sino-Danish relations, pointing by way of example to the increasing two-way flow of intellectual talent between the two countries.
“There is also another area we are interested in, which is Danish students studying in China, and Chinese students coming to Denmark to study,” she said.
“This is the way forward... not only to create business partnerships, but also to create a full-fledged friendship between Denmark and China,” she added.
Currently, Denmark is home to two Confucius Institutes for Chinese language and culture, and eight Danish universities have joined forces with the Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences to establish a new Sino-Danish University Center in China.
Thorning-Schmidt came to office following a general election in September 2011, leading a coalition of centre-left parties. Since then, she has had a busy year, presiding over a fragile economic recovery and making reforms to support economic growth and job recovery in Denmark, even as the EU faces a deepening sovereign debt crisis. She also led the helm of EU affairs when Denmark held the rotating EU Presidency in the first half of this year.
While the upcoming visit to China will be about strengthening Sino-Danish cooperation and is part of her government’s foreign policy, Thorning-Schmidt's journey will also be an emotional one, marking her return to the country she first visited in a personal capacity in 1987.
“I have had some private visits to China before, first time in 1987, and then a few years ago I went as a tourist as well to China. It is an amazing country, a fascinating country, and of course when you travel with twenty years in between, you see the enormous changes that have happened in China. And I expect to see new changes this time as well,” Thorning-Schmidt said.
“I am looking very much forward to going back, meeting the Chinese people. I have always felt very welcome in China,” she added.