On the agenda for the meeting was bilateral trade relations, the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations (Sweden was the first country in Western Europe to recognize the Communist government in Beijing as China's legitimate government in 1950), the follow-up of the climate conference in Copenhagen and the financial crisis.
Stronger ties between Sweden and China?
PM Reinfeldt and Vice President Xi Jinping. Photo: Pawel Flato
The press conference afterwards took some time because everything had to be translated. The number of Chinese journalists seemed to be at least as big as the number of Swedish. The press conference was filled with the usual overwhelming heartiness and politeness during official visits. But through the diplomatic shade one could still see a genuine will to strengthen the ties between the two countries. Vice President Xi Jinping said:
- (...) Just now the Prime Minister and I had a candide exchange of views on deepening China-Sweden cooperation in various fields and promoting China-Sweden relations. We have reached many important agreements.
Vice President Xi Jinping continued:
- We both agreed that the two sides should strengthen exchanges and communication, increase political mutual trust, expand economic cooperation and trade, deepen people-to-people and cultural exchanges and enhance coordination and collaboration in international affairs so as to push Sweden-China's relations to a higher level in the next 60 years."
Prime Minister Reinfeldt argued in the same way:
- (...) There is a growing interest for China here in Sweden bot also for Sweden in China. Tourist flows are strong and only this year 5000 Chinese students were doing their studies in Sweden....several hundred Swedish companies are on the spot in China and thousands are doing business with China.
Good or bad for Reinfeldt's popularity?
The meeting was probably a bonus for PM Reinfeldt. To show a close and improving relation with one of the strongest (and fastest growing) economies of the world demonstrates strength and hope for the Swedish economy, especially the injured Swedish car-industry.
Prime Minister Reinfeldt also got good remarks on his efforts during the Swedish EU presidency last year. Vice President Xi Jinping:
- When Sweden held the rotating presidency of the European Union, China-Sweden carried out good cooperation in pushing forward China-EU relations.
But at the same time there is a risk that the heartily tone between PM Reinfeldt and Vice President Xi Jinping, may have a bad taste for many Swedes. Many voices were raised that Sweden should publicly boycot the opeing ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. China's lack of respect for democracy, human rights and minorities was seen as a big problem in 2008 and Reinfeldt's should be careful with his kind comments on China.
On the other hand, the critical comments towards China's lack of respect for human rights has not been voiced during this visit from any political actor in Sweden. To risk the success of the Volvo-Geely deal would be political suicide and all intelligent politicians in Sweden know this.