Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

China and Switzerland: Partners of 65 years

By Wang Yi & Didier Burkhalter (China Daily) Updated: 2015-09-14 07:49

China and Switzerland: Partners of 65 years

Premier Li Keqiang (Left) meets with Simonetta Sommaruga, president of the Swiss Confederation, in Davos, Switzerland, Jan 21, 2015.[Photo/]

Sixty-five years ago today on 14 September 1950, the People's Republic of China and the Swiss Confederation officially established diplomatic relations. The history of the bilateral relations in the past decades has shown two defining features of this relationship: one is its pioneering spirit, and the other is the depth and width of bilateral cooperation.

Switzerland is one of the first Western countries to recognize the PRC. In 1980, Schindler Group of Switzerland and its Chinese partners set up the first industrial joint venture in China. In 2007, Switzer-land became one of the first European countries that recognized China as a market economy. This laid the groundwork for the China-Switzerland Free Trade Agreement that came into effect last year. The agreement set a good example of free trade cooperation between China and countries on the European continent.

Asia, China in particular, is one of the most dynamic regions in the world. China's development and rejuvenation will have far-reaching impact for the 21st century. Such a remarkable transformation has presented new challenges in social, economic, political, legal and environmental areas.

As China's friend and partner, Switzerland supports and encourages a stable, prosperous and fast modernizing China. The two countries work closely with each other in coping with climate change and developing a low-carbon economy. We also enjoy active bilateral exchanges, a big part of which have been the multiple dialogue mechanisms set up between the two countries. We cherish these exchanges as they offer a platform of dialogue and mutual learning in the fields of political affairs, environmental protection, sustainable development, immigration and education. The two sides, under the framework of human rights dialogue, have carried out specific and prudent exchanges on questions including minority groups on an equal footing and in the spirit of mutual respect.

Economic and financial cooperation is a major pillar of our bilateral relations. Both China and Switzerland attach importance to sound economic growth and are committed to improving people's well-being. We have developed close economic ties. China is now Switzerland's most important trading partner in Asia, and its third largest trading partner in the world, after the European Union and the United States. There is still great potential for further growth in our bilateral trade.

While implementing the China-Switzerland Free Trade Agreement, it is of special significance to expand bilateral financial cooperation. The China-Switzerland financial dialogue mechanism established in 2013 has further upgraded bilateral financial cooperation. Major progress has been made in this area. For instance, when Premier Li Keqiang attended the annual meeting of World Economic Forumin Davos in January 2015, the central banks of the two countries signed a cooperation document on establishing RMB clearance arrangement in Switzerland. Switzerland is also one of the first western European countries to participate in the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Apart from the above examples of ground-breaking progress in China-Switzerland trade, we should not fail to note another major component of our relations, namely, people-to-people exchanges. Exchanges between university and middle school students, professors, scholars and scientists have been increasing and culture exchanges have been ever more active. Every week 11 flights travel between the two countries. In 2014, the number of Chinese tourists staying overnight in Swiss hotels exceeded 1 million for the first time. China has become the largest source of Asian tourists traveling to Switzerland.

We firmly believe that as long as our two countries carry on our sound cooperation as we have done over the past decades and continue to follow the spirit of daring creativity in building our future, China-Switzerland relations will achieve greater development.

Wang Yi is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China and Didier Burkhalter is Federal Councilor and Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of the Swiss Confederation

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