«Norway is back in China!»

img_0439.jpg

These were Prime Minister’s first words as she opened the Norway China Business Forum on the first day of her four-day visit to Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Foreign Minister Børge Brende, Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Mæland as well as over 230 business representatives and press corps members arrived in Beijing on 6-7 of April.

Launching the official visit in Beijing

Only hours after landing in Beijing in the morning of 7 April, the Prime Minister opened the “Norway-China Business Forum” arranged by Innovation Norway at the China World Summit Wing. Over 800 Norwegian and Chinese business leaders and representatives were present. The Norwegian business delegation was our largest ever, emphasizing Norway’s ambition not only to reestablish, but also to broaden our cooperation with China in a variety of fields. This was highlighted by the signing ceremony, where 13 bilateral businesses contracts were signed, totaling a value of ¥ 16 billion RMB.

An important reason for the Prime Minister’s visit was to manifest the normalization of the bilateral relationship between our two countries. This meant, of course, meetings with Chinese political leaders. The Prime Minister was invited to the Great Hall of the People, where she met the president of the parliament Zhang Dejiang, as well as her esteemed counterpart, Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

On this occasion, six bilateral agreements were signed, including one about resuming negotiations on establishing a free trade agreement (FTA) between Norway and China.

After the welcoming banquet, the Prime Minister was interviewed by CCTV, before she and the rest of the delegation got on the plane to Shanghai.

Fish and football in Shanghai

The following day proved no less eventful. After starting the day at the Fudan University attending the official opening of “Norway Day”, the Prime Minister was greeted by the president of Fudan University, Mr Xu Ningsheng. During her visit to the university, she also had the chance to meet some of the alumni from the joint MBA-program between BI Norwegian Business School and Fudan University School of Management, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.  

Shanghai is the city in China where most Norwegian companies are located, and the Prime Minister paid a visit to one that has been here for more than 100 years: DNV-GL. Afterwards she had a meeting and lunch with Shanghai’s Mayor Ying Yong.

In the afternoon, the Prime Minister opened the Shanghai edition of the Norway-China Business Forum, where the several hundred Norwegian and Chinese business representatives in attendance were no less enthusiastic than the day before. Also this forum was concluded by the signing several bilateral business contracts.  

Although of less economic and high-level political significance, the part of the Prime Ministers visit to Shanghai that perhaps got the most attention in the media was her visit to the Shanghai Meilong Middle-School. Here she had the pleasure of presenting an all-girl football team with the iconic UN Sustainable Development Goals football especially made for the occasion, as well as cordially invite them to participate in the upcoming Norway Cup. Read more about this event here.

Finally, the Prime Minister visited a Norwegian seafood promotion event at a local Chinese supermarket, preparing Norwegian cod with a Chinese twist.

Alibaba in Hangzhou

On Sunday, the Prime Minister got the chance to experience China’s state-of-the-art speed train on her trip from Shanghai to Hangzhou, where she met Governor Che Jun for lunch at the historical West Lake State Guest House. In the afternoon, she was received by Mr. Jack Ma at his Alibaba Xixi campus, where they discussed their common work on the UN sustainable development goals.  

Back to Beijing, marking a new beginning

The Prime Minister’s last day in China began with a talk about the UN Sustainable Development Goals entitled “Sustainable Development – Making Globalization Work for People and the Planet” at Peking University, where she also met with several of the Chinese Norwegian students from the Beijing Foreign Studies University for an intimate discussion about Norwegian language and culture.

In the evening, the Prime Minister concluded her visit to China with a meeting with President Xi Jinping. During the meeting, President Xi especially welcomed further cooperation with Norway within the Arctic, the environment and climate change. The president was also very positive to Norway and China’s agreement to cooperate on winter sports and the Beijing Olympics in 2022. Furthermore, he reiterated the goal to reassume free trade negotiations, and highlighted the great potential for future cooperation between our complimentary economies.

The meetig between Prime MInister Erna Solberg and President Xi Jinping marked an important turning point in the history of the bilateral relationship between Norway and China, and the beginning of a future era of cooperation and mutual development between our countries.