China-Finland ties thrive amid COVID-19 pandemic: Finnish Ambassador
China-Finland relations continue to thrive despite the economic downturn brought on by COVID-19. Finland remains determined to further strengthen the cooperation with China, specifically focusing on political dialogue and bilateral trade, while supporting one another in the fight against the pandemic, said Jarno Syrjälä, Finnish ambassador to China.
Syrjälä made the remarks on Wednesday at a press conference commemorating the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Finland, who added that for the past seven decades, the two nations’ multi-faceted relations have been on remarkably good terms, with political dialogue as the foundation and booming trade as a major driver.
Seventy years have witnessed substantial progress in the two nation’s relations and cooperation. As the first western country to sign an inter-governmental trade agreement with China, the first business transaction between the two nations started in 1951, and continues to thrive today. China now has become Finland’s fourth largest trading partner globally and the largest in Asia for 17 consecutive years. Eight cities in China have established direct flights with Finland now only taking=seven hours to travel between Helsinki and Beijing instead of over a day.
“During the past seven decades, our two nations have had many positive cooperations, I am very optimistic when it comes to our future bilateral relations, because our good relations are built on strong traditions,” said the ambassador.
Jarno Syrjälä, Finnish ambassador to China
Deepened cooperation amid COVID-19 pandemic
“The pandemic has surly had a negative impact on our trade, but we are now actively using online technologies and Finnish companies local branches in China to deepen our connections, while I have been visiting different cities in China to find more opportunities for our cooperation,” said the ambassador, who added that almost 400 Finnish companies have established their offices in China, minimizing the negative impact brought on by COVID-19.
“To battle with the pandemic, it is important that we remain open to each other, so we can have dialogue, as well as an exchange of information,” the ambassador shared.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, China and Finland have continued to have close exchanges and good communication. Finnish President Niinistö sent a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, expressing empathy toward the Chinese people and support for China's fight against the virus. When the pandemic spread in Finland, President Xi spoke with President Niinistö over the phone, saying that China is ready to continue exchanging experiences with Finland on pandemic prevention and control and help the Finnish side to tackle the shortage of prevention materials, among other difficulties.
The two nations’ joint efforts to work together amid the pandemic has paid off. Despite the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Finland's exports to China have soared by as much as 69 percent to 1.1 billion euros (1.3 billion U.S. dollars) in Q2, 2020. Imports from China also rose by 12 percent to 1.6 billion euros.
“China’s efforts to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in China and globally, have been recognized. Finland warmly welcomes China’s announcement to join COVAX, the international effort to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. It is both a global and national responsibility for all of us to take the necessary measures to bring the pandemic to an end,” said Matti Anttonen, Permanent State Secretary of Finland.
Looking forward to the two nations’ future cooperation, the ambassador noted that he and the Finnish government have been following China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, a mid-term economic and social development strategy that will determine China’s development in the next five years.
“We recognise the importance of the upcoming Five-Year Plan, as it will give guidelines on many important issues. For us, how China will build a more environmental-friendly system, as well as its future opening up policies are our interests. We hope to see more opening up of China’s economy and society in the next five years,” said the ambassador.
Echoing the ambassador, Anttonen noted that both China and Finland have ambitious climate goals, which will become a major cooperation area in the future.
“Finland is committed to climate neutrality by 2035 and China to carbon neutrality before 2060. We must now follow through with our commitments and push for even more ambitious contributions,” said Anttonen.
As for further opening up, Anttonen noted that in times of crisis or economic distress, countries may easily become short-sighted and even disregarded the existential issues of the future. He called for more dialogue and cooperation among nations, hoping China and Finland will take lead in such areas.
“I would like to see Finland and China cooperate more in tacking such challenges in a sustainable manner. This would also offer major opportunities for both Finnish and Chinese businesses,” he added.