China relations riding high following Hu visit

Chinese president’s visit results in expanded economic co-operation and underscores cultural relations

The first ever visit to Denmark by a Chinese head of state has brought bilateral strategic relations between China and Denmark to an exceptionally high level and sparked a raft of trade agreements.

The three-day state visit by China’s president, Hu Jintao, which ended Saturday, allowed the two countries to close a number of co-operation documents and business deals, as well as agreements on Chinese investment in Denmark.

The two countries have enjoyed good bilateral diplomatic relations for over 62 years, and forged a comprehensive strategic partnership covering economic, political, cultural and other affairs, in 2008.

Meeting PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt at Christiansborg Castle, the seat of parliament, on Saturday, Hu said the visit would improve bilateral understanding and push forward the comprehensive strategic partnership.

He added that the visit is “an embodiment of the high attention we attach to China-Denmark relations.”

Ahead of Hu’s visit, Thorning-Schmidt said in an official statement that, “China’s role and relevance in the development of large parts of the world has grown rapidly in recent years.”

“Both Denmark and China have much to gain by a closer relationship and I look forward to discussing how we can further strengthen the depth and breadth of our strategic partnership,” she added.

Strategic trade agreements

A sign of the closeness of bilateral relations, and a willingness to co-operate more effectively in areas of special competence in future, led to the signing of several co-operation documents in the areas of investment, tariffs, energy, agriculture and culture.

However, the visit’s biggest winners were Danish and Chinese businesses, which closed some 16 deals worth around 20 billion kroner during the trip.

“I am concerned about how we can contribute to solve some of the challenges the Chinese are facing, including within the area of green solutions, on which China has put massive focus,” said the trade minister, Pia Olsen Dyhr, in a press statement Friday.

There is enormous potential for Danish companies here, and that must be utilised,” she added.

Indeed, Danish political and business leaders’ springboard into China has been Denmark’s technological and regulatory head start in green technology areas and social welfare models. This includes low-energy buildings, smart electricity grids, urban heating and cooling systems, and renewable energy generation.

These are of special interest to China as it rapidly implements its on-going 12th Five-Year plan that seeks to put the country on the path towards a sustainable, green economy.

In fact, among the largest deals concluded during the visit are those in the green technology sector. These include deals between Chinese enterprises and Danish catalyst maker Haldor Topsøe, industrial enzyme maker Novozymes, and temperature-control systems maker Danfoss.

On Saturday, Dyhr and the Chinese trade minister, Chen Deming, signed another agreement to strengthen commercial co-operation on energy efficiency, environmental protection and sustainable urbanisation.

China is already the world’s biggest market for wind power, and is expected to be the biggest global market for renewable energy solutions as early as 2014.

As such, Denmark’s Foreign Ministry announced Friday that several Danish firms will collaborate to build-up a Danish-Chinese program in boosting efficiency of green energy, which will lead to development in China of a comprehensive demonstration project within this field.

Other major deals have come within food and food safety products, another Danish stronghold sector.

For instance, Danish brewer Carlsberg agreed with Yunnan province authorities to invest 4 billion kroner there until 2025, including for the development of a new brewery.

Moreover, Danish dairy co-operative Arla and China’s leading dairy company Mengniu agreed to widen distribution and sale of Arla products in China.

According to official Chinese statistics, the volume of bilateral trade between China and Denmark increased 18.3 percent in 2011, as compared to the previous year, to reach a historical high of 54 billion kroner

Moreover, the Trade Ministry said Denmark’s exports to China were worth around 16 billion kroner in 2011 and predicts it will rise 20 percent in 2012.

Furthermore, the European Union too could benefit from Hu’s visit to Denmark, which took place during Denmark’s presidency of the 27-member bloc.

The EU, which has its own strategic partnership agreement with China, is currently preparing negotiations for a China-EU investment agreement, and Denmark has helped push this process forward.

“This is something we will continue to follow closely from the Danish side,” Dyhr said Friday of the EU-China investment agreement negotiations.

Cultural ties

Ahead of the presidential visit, experts here had said the arrival of Hu to Denmark was a unique event with far-reaching consequences for ties between the two countries.

“It will bring the relationship up to a level we have not seen for many years. Denmark was one of the first countries to set up diplomatic relations with China and hopefully, we can continue to be a country that supports China and works closely with it,” Prof Verner Worm, director of Copenhagen Business Confucius Institute (CBCI), a centre for study of Chinese language and culture, told Xinhua in an interview.

Queen Margrethe II made a state visit to China in 1979, the first such by a European monarch. In a sign of the close ties and respect between the two countries, the Queen hosted Hu and Liu to a rare, state banquet at Christiansborg on Friday.

“We are in agreement today of the value of dialogue and co-operation, also there, where we may not be in full agreement. That is a sign of our strong friendship which we must uphold together,” the queen said in her speech at the banquet.

She added both countries would continue to gain in future through common efforts to combat global climate change.

In his own speech, held immediately after the queen’s, Hu said the Danish and Chinese peoples “admire each other” before agreeing that Denmark and China could gain much from collaboration on green issues.

“Denmark is strong when it comes to environmental protection, and there is a great future in co-operating in that area,” Hu said.

Indeed, Hu listened closely as Danish Environment Minister Ida Auken explained to him Copenhagen’s system for cleaning its wastewater and sewage, and of the renewable sources powering the city’s urban electricity and heating plants, during a royal yacht trip around Copenhagen Friday.

Several concrete agreements were reached during Hu’s visit, as well as a sharpening of focus on common action on attaining green goals. Yet, regardless of the actual outcomes, Sino-Danish ties are set to strengthen on all levels, simply because the visit took place.

“The visit is very important on a symbolic level no matter what they reach in terms of specific agreements. It will further improve our Sino-Danish relations,” Prof Kjeld Erik Broedsgaard of the Asia Research Centre at Copenhagen Business School said in an interview.

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