What is behind Switzerland’s first ‘China strategy’ report?
Published: Mar 22, 2021 09:47 PM
Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Switzerland recently released its first "China strategy," describing China as a priority country for its foreign policy. While hyping so-called "differences in values" and "human rights" concerns among bilateral relation, it also expressed a strong intention to shore up economic and trade ties with China which, however, would only be expected under mutual respect over each other's core interests.

Within the focus areas of Switzerland's report, it first claimed that human right topic is a "core element of the two countries' relations." Meanwhile, it aims to "modernize" the bilateral free trade agreement with China, and has listed out areas that it intends to pursue cooperation, from trade, infrastructure projects to digitalization. 

Though Switzerland is a traditional neutral state, it, as a member of the Western world, has recently played up the so-called concerns over values or a fabricated human right concern over China, sowing certain degree of discord within bilateral relations. In addition to the deep-rooted ideology prejudice, pressure faced by this neutral European country from the US-led Western forces could not be excluded.

In the meantime, its intention to enhance economic cooperation with China may be a more genuine appeal within expectation. As the first European country establishing a free trade agreement (FTA) relation with China, Switzerland has been benefited from the China-Swiss ties. Bilateral trade doubled within 10 years, with a major part of the growth generated after the FTA came into effective in 2014.

Besides the crucial FTA, the two nations have signed dozens of bilateral agreements, from areas of technology, culture, education to tourism and finance. As an economy hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, to continuing a sound economic tie with China would definitely facilitate its recovery during post-pandemic era.

A leading Swiss financial services company, Credit Suisse Group, plans to triple its headcount in China over the next three years, ramping up its ambitions to gain market share in the Chinese market, Bloomberg reported.

As the world enters a turbulent phase of economic recovery, robust relations with China, the major driver of the global recovery, is of great significance for many economies, including Switzerland. However, the prospect of economic and trade cooperation would only be rosy on the premise of mutual respect over each other's core interests. 

After the release of the so-called China strategy of Switzerland, the Embassy of China in the country has responded clear that it meets the common expectations and interests of the two peoples as the Swiss government acknowledged the tremendous achievements China has made in economic development, positively commented the 70-year cooperative relations between the two countries and regarding China as one of its diplomatic priorities. However, as the embassy stressed, it is regrettable that the Swiss have engaged in groundless accusations and attacks on China's political system, policies on ethnic minorities and human rights development in the document, sending false signals which goes against facts and is not conducive to the healthy development of Sino-Swiss relations. China is firmly opposed to the baseless vilification.

China has been committed to further opening up its market to the world, and joining hands with partners to uphold multilateralism. As FTA and innovative strategic partners, it is expected that Switzerland could discard ideological bias and respect the Chinese people's choice of development path, so as to seize the opportunity to boost its own recovery.

The article was compiled based on an interview with Li Gang, an associate professor at the Institute of European Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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