President Xi’s Finland trip offers Arctic opportunities

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/30 23:58:39

Visit marks Xi’s first trip to EU state in 2017


File photo: Xinhua


 
President Xi Jinping's state visit to Finland will be a great opportunity for China to participate in Arctic affairs as both sides have high complementarities in trade and economic cooperation, Chinese experts said. 

"At the invitation of Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and US President Donald Trump, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit from April 4 to 6, and meet with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Florida from April 6 to 7," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a daily press briefing on Thursday.

Finnish media reported last week that Xi's visit is related to the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence this year.

"In history, there's never been any dispute or trouble between China and Finland. The Sino-Finnish relationship is the model of state-to-state relations with friendly cooperation," said Su Ge, former Chinese ambassador to Iceland. 

Xi's upcoming visit to Finland "shows the importance China attaches to a future-oriented new type of partnership with Finland, and support for the EU," the spokesperson added.

"Finland is a country with rich forest resources, and areas like high-technology, innovation, and environmental protection are also Finland's advantages," said Chen Mingming, the former Chinese ambassador to Sweden, adding that both sides are highly complementary in trade and economic cooperation.

Partners in the Arctic

The Sino-Finland relationship has new opportunities from the One Belt and One Road initiative, and northern Europe benefits from its proximity to the Arctic, Chen said.

"The Arctic is not like Antarctica, which is open for every country in the world. If other countries want to participate in the exploration and development of the Arctic, they have to cooperate with the countries surrounding it, and countries in northern Europe, including Finland, are ideal partners for China to find the path to the Arctic," he noted.

The only way for non-Arctic countries to participate in Arctic affairs is through the Arctic Council. The council is an intergovernmental forum that addresses issues faced by Arctic states and its indigenous people, and only states with territory in the Arctic can be members. The Council consists of eight members: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the US. China became an observer in 2013.

China's cooperation with the members of the Arctic Council will absolutely respect their sovereignty. China has already participated in the Finland-initiated project to build undersea cables in the Arctic, to establish a new information superhighway to link Asia and Europe, Chen said.

According to news site sputniknews.com, a 2016 report by former Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen identified Russia, China, Japan and Norway as key countries for the ambitious cable-laying project, which was deemed "politically and technologically viable." According to Lipponen's vision, the undersea section of the cable would stretch around 10,500 kilometers from Japan and China to the Kola Peninsula in Russia and Kirkenes, Norway.

Old friends

Xi and Niinisto have built a relationship since 2010. In March 2010, then Vice President Xi visited Helsinki and met with Niinisto who was speaker of the Parliament of Finland at that time.

In 2012, Niinisto was elected president, and in April 2013, he visited China and attended the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference along with his wife Jenni Haukio.

Xi's visit to Finland will be his first trip to a European Union member state this year, and also Xi's first visit to northern Europe as president, Lu said. Xi is only the second Chinese president to visit Finland after Jiang Zemin, who paid the first presidential state visit from China to the Nordic country in 1995. 

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