President Niinistö visits China

The President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö and his spouse Mrs Jenni Haukio made a state visit to China on 14-15 January 2019.

President of China Xi Jinping and his spouse Mrs Peng Liyuan welcomed President Niinistö and Mrs Jenni Haukio on a state visit to China. Photo: Matti Porre/Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

President Niinistö met with the President of China Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday 14 January. In addition to bilateral relations between Finland and China, the presidents discussed relations between great powers, climate change, human rights, the Arctic region and the European Union. “It seems that China would prefer a strong European Union that also has a large influence over world politics. That is what I have also called and wished for,” said President Niinistö to the Finnish media after the meeting.

The presidents also shared similar views on climate change: “We agree on many aspects of climate change prevention in particular. China approached it very constructively, and thanks to the EU and China, we now have the Katowice agreement. China really seems to take these issues seriously.”

During the visit, a joint action plan for the bilateral partnership between Finland and China was also published. The action plan concretizes the new-type cooperative partnership between Finland and China that was announced on the state visit to Finland by the President of China in April 2017.

In Beijing, three memorandums of understanding were also signed on culture and cooperation in cultural tourism, winter sports and economic cooperation as well as cooperation in patent and registration matters.

According to President Niinistö, human rights were discussed at length, but he said that the best way is to set a good example: “The strongest message from Finland will come through Finnish society and communities, how we have built our society. Those building blocks contain quite a selection of values. Leading by example, is how I would put it.”

Year of Winter Sports

The launching ceremony of the 2019 China-Finland Year of Winter Sports. Photo: Matti Porre/Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

President Niinistö and President Xi also attended the launching ceremony of the 2019 China-Finland Year of Winter Sports. In his speech, President Niinistö commended the beginning of the theme year.

“Training cooperation is in full swing. Chinese athletes are training in Finland, and there are Finnish coaches working here in China. The theme year’s programme will include more than 60 different events. Their topics vary from physical education to world-class sports, from coach training to sports technology.”

President Niinistö also reminded that sports cooperation between the two countries is not only for the theme year but hopefully something more permanent. “Something that will enable our citizens also to enjoy even more the various dimensions of winter sports after the Olympics.”

Climate discussions in Beijing

Cooling our Planet climate seminar in Beijing. Photo: Matti Porre/Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

Before the presidents’ discussions, President Niinistö met Chairman Zhao Huan of China Development Bank and attended the Cooling our Planet climate seminar with China’s Minister of Environment Li Ganjie.

In his keynote speech, President Niinistö emphasised the need for cooperation and more determined commitment in climate work by governments, local authorities as well as the private sector and civil society. “Despite the encouraging signs of growing climate awareness, we have a lot of work ahead of us. The year 2018 witnessed not only rising global temperatures, but also a further increase in worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.  We have to reverse this trend, and act quickly.  Our commitments have to be strengthened globally.”

A two-day visit

President Niinistö and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang discussed especially economic relations between Finland and China and clean-tech during their meeting. Photo: Matti Porre/Office of the President of Finland

On Tuesday, President Niinistö met Chinese premier Li Keqiang, with whom he mainly discussed the economic relations between China and Finland. The Chinese were particularly interested in cooperation opportunities in the area of clean energy. The easier access of Finnish SMEs in the Chinese market was also discussed, as well as increasing tourism both ways.

Later in the day President Niinistö also met the Chairman of the National People’s Congress Li Zhanshu and attended the opening ceremony of the 2019 China-Finland Year of Winter Sports.

President Niinistö’s delegation in Beijing includes Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Anne-Mari Virolainen and Minister for European Affairs, Culture and Sport Sampo Terho. Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Lahti Pekka Timonen and Chairman of the Committee for Innovative Business Cooperation between Finland and China Risto Siilasmaa also participate in the visit.

Presidents Niinistö and Xi have previously met on several occasions. Most recently they met in April 2017 when President Xi and his spouse Peng Liyuan made a state visit to Finland. President Niinistö and Mrs Haukio made an official visit to China in 2013. The previous state visit from Finland to China was made in 2002.