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New Catalyst for China-Finland Ties
President Xi's visit to the Nordic nation encourages more people-to-people exchanges
By Bai Shi | NO. 15 APRIL 13, 2017
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan as well as his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö and the First Lady of Finland Jenni Haukio meet skaters from the two countries in Helsinki, Finland, on April 5 (XINHUA)

Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, the newly crowned pairs skating champions in Helsinki, had the opportunity to meet visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö on April 5, three days after the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships ended.

Xi said that sports exchange is an important bridge in promoting China-Finland friendship and that China has a lot to learn from Finland as the Nordic country excels in winter sports. In response, Niinisto said that Finland is willing to share experiences and deepen cooperation with China in winter sports and games preparations.

Xi paid his first state visit as Chinese president to Finland from April 4 to 6. During his stay in Helsinki, China and Finland confirmed the establishment of a future-oriented new-type cooperative partnership in a joint declaration issued on April 5. The concept was first conceived four years ago during President Niinisto's visit to China.

Enhancing cooperation in winter sports has been included in the joint declaration. The declaration says that using the opportunity of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China and Finland will promote exchanges in winter sports and cooperation in organizing the Olympic Games.

Close ties extended 

Sports exchange is a strong bond linking the two countries. As early as 1952, Finland, the host of the 15th Olympic Games, invited athletes of the newly founded People's Republic of China (PRC) to participate in the games in Helsinki. This was the first time in history that athletes from the PRC appeared at the Olympics.

China and Finland have maintained sound bilateral ties since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1950. Finland was not only one of the first Western countries to establish diplomatic ties with China, but also the first Western country that signed an intergovernmental trade agreement with China, said Wang Chao, Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, at a news briefing in Beijing on March 31. China and Finland inked the bilateral agreement on trade in 1953, according to Wang.

Chen Li, Chinese Ambassador to Finland, told Xinhua News Agency that China and Finland have shown the world how to build equal, peaceful and mutually beneficial relations despite so many differences in history, culture, economic development, and social and political systems.

According to Wang Yiwei, Director of the Institute of European Union Studies at Renmin University of China, China-Finland relations are significant in promoting new cooperative relations in the international community.

Wang said that China can seek to build the same level of relationship with other North European countries and EU member states. Finland is highly competitive in the fields of environmental protection, transport and Arctic research, Wang said to People's Daily.

Currently, the two countries have achieved remarkable progress in hi-tech, clean energy, innovation and North Pole research cooperation.

For example, AAVI Technologies Ltd., set up in Helsinki in 1983, is dedicated to resolving air pollution. In 2013, Chinese investors purchased 85 percent of its shares and brought fresh impetus to the company. In the same year, AAVI took part in an environmental protection initiative launched by China and Finland, developing air cleaning facilities to combat Beijing's air pollution. With an investment of 500 million euros ($533.85 million), AAVI started manufacturing equipment for environmental protection in Qidong, east China's Jiangsu Province, in November 2016.

Finland is also known in China as a cradle of innovative ideas and boasts a burgeoning game industry. Well-known game companies include Rovio, which developed the popular Angry Birds franchise, and Supercell. Despite being a young game brand, Supercell has developed some of the most popular games for smartphone users, such as Clash and Clans, Hay Day, Boom Beach and Clash Royale. These games are also popular among Chinese users. In June 2016, China's Internet-based tech giant Tencent purchased 84.3 percent of Supercell's shares with a bid of $8.6 billion.

For Supercell's CEO Ilkka Paananen, there are many reasons for the merger with Tencent. He explained that China is the largest game market in the world and Tencent has more than 1 billion users. At the same time, China's rapid development of social media networks brings game developers like Supercell more opportunities.

A Belt and Road partner 

As the only Nordic country in the eurozone, Finland suffered serious losses in the euro debt crisis. The exit of Britain from the EU also leaves the union facing an uncertain future. Under such circumstances, Finland can work together with China to maintain free trade and economic globalization, said Wang Yiwei, who believes that Finland is an important country in the Belt and Road Initiative, the popular name for the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative.

It is expected that a new route through the Arctic Ocean will get underway in future. Therefore, Finland will play an important role in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and become a natural extension in the "16 plus one" cooperation mechanism between China and Central and Eastern European countries. Wang Yiwei said the Belt and Road Initiative was warmly received in Finland when he gave a lecture at the Confucius Institute in Helsinki two years ago.

"When I mentioned the initiative, a Finnish scholar said that Finland's independence movement hero Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim had proposed a similar idea over 100 years ago," Wang Yiwei recalled. Mannerheim, who was president of Finland in 1944-46, made an exploration into northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in 1908.

"This kind of initiative can help to synchronize different development plans better together," Finnish Ambassador to China Marja Rislakki said in an interview with Xinhua recently.

Rislakki also said that the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation scheduled in May will serve as a good platform to further discuss the initiative's coordination and development. Now the initiative has already aroused discussion inside the EU about "how to best increase inter-regional connectivity," Rislakki said.

As the Belt and Road Initiative carries on, China and Finland will have more opportunities to expand cooperation in the future, Wang Yiwei said.

Copyedited by Dominic James Madar 

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