It is in Finland’s interests to prioritize ties with China: politician
By Guan Kejiang from People’s Daily
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s upcoming Finnish trip, coming upon the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence, is the best evidence of bilateral traditional friendship, said former Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, adding that it is in his country’s interest to prioritize its ties with China.
He said so in an interview with the People’s Daily before Xi kicks off his state visit to Finland on April 4.
Vanhanen first recalled his talks with Xi, then Vice President, in Helsinki seven years ago. He said that as Finnish Prime Minister then, he was happy to accompany Xi for a visit to Rovaniemi, known as hometown of Santa Claus.
He added that their talks in the capital city focused more on politics, economy and trade, while the Rovaniemi trip covered more on cultural exchanges and communication between young generations.
Most impressed by Xi’s fortitude and persistence, the former prime minister said that that Xi grew into a top leader by starting from grassroots, and what is more important is that he can implement all the far-sighted decisions he has made.
“It is an easy job for politicians to make a commitment, but arduous efforts are required to fulfill those promises,” he explained.
Vanhanen, current chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Parliament, stressed the importance of international cooperation amid the uncertainties brought by Brexit, US policies as well as rising tide of European protectionism.
Against such backdrop, the ideas on international cooperation, open market and multilateralism put forward by Xi at the Davos Forum earlier this year are impressive and significant, according to Vanhanen.
He urged each country to never damage the interests of the third parties while protecting their own interest and seeking bilateral resolutions, explaining that the world agendas are always intertwined and interconnected.
Each member of the world should abide by the common rules and safeguard international multilateral system, he said.
Xi’s Finnish trip on this special occasion, according to the official, is of great value. He said that the distance between both countries is not as far as someone imaged, since a flight between them only takes eight hours.
The direct flight between both countries is one reason why Finland could be one of China’s largest trade partners in Northern Europe, he added.
Vanhanen said that the increasingly closer economic, trade and investment relations between both countries can be attributed to quite a number of reasons. A sound economic and trade environment, first of all, was ensured by their long-term political friendship and mutual respect.
The business expansion of some big Finnish companies in Chinese market paved a road for the country’s latecomers, he said, adding that their similar development strategies also contributed to an intensified relationship.
China’s shift to a more sustainable economic growth has provided abundant business opportunities for clean energy, forestry, innovative technologies and other industries of Finland, he further pointed out.
Highly appreciating the “Belt and Road” initiative put forward by China, Vanhanen believed that his country can play a part in it.
Someone has advised to build a tunnel to connect Finland with Tallinn, capital and largest city of Estonia, so that the country will be included in the railway network linking Europe and Asia, he illustrated.
Finland also expects to open more direct flights to Chinese cities, the politician cited Rovaniemi, administrative capital of Finland’s northernmost Lapland province, as an example, adding that Chinese visitors to the province increased over 40 percent each year.
With an aim to build an “information Silk Road” spanning Northern Europe and Asian nations, Finland has proposed to build a trans-Arctic data cable, he added.
Vanhanen stressed that the Finnish political circle holds friendly attitudes towards China because it is also in the interest of Finland to place China as a diplomatic priority.