Hu to make ‘historic’ visit

First official visit of Chinese head of state accompanied by announcement of new Chinese culture centre

China’s president, Hu Jintao, will call on Denmark for an offiical visit on June 14-16, Chinese officials said in a surprise announcement yesterday and later confirmed by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The visit is the first to Denmark by a Chinese head of state, and comes after relations between the two countries hit a sour note in May 2009 when then-prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen met with the Dalai Lama at his official residence. 

Describing the visit as 'historic', Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the prime minister, said "Denmark and China have a lot to win by working more closely together".

The meeting next week is expected to focus on economic issues and areas such as environmental sustainability, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

In addition to being a key market for Danish goods ranging from wind power technology to mink fur, China is also seeking to become involved Greenland’s emerging mining industry. China is also looking to play an increasing role in the Arctic as receeding polar ice opens up new opportunities for mining and shipping routes.

The announcement has been received with a mixture of excitement about the visit by the head of the world’s second largest economy, and concern that economic discussions will overshadow human rights issues.

In a sign of the importance of the visit, the announcement has been accompanied by a fanfare of news coverage in the Danish press reserved normally only for visits by American presidents. 

Also announced yesterday were plans by China’s Culture Ministry to open a cultural instittue in Copenhagen. According to the Danish Culture Ministry, Chinese officials settled on the Danish capital after also considering Stockholm and Oslo as the site of their first cultural centre in Scandinavia. 

The point of such centres, which already exist in France, Spain, Germany and South Korea, will be to encourage Chinese artists and scholars to visit Copenhagen. 

Denmark has had its own culture institute in Beijing since 2005.