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China - Relations

25.08.2015

(last updated: 06.08.2014)
 

 

Since Estonia regained its independence, Estonia-China relations have developed at a rapid pace and are very good. The development of relations has taken place thanks to reciprocal initiatives: many visits have taken place between the two nations and the most important bilateral agreements have been concluded.

The Republic of Estonia and the People’s Republic of China established diplomatic relations on 11 September 1991 during the visit of China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Tian Zengpei to Estonia. China opened its embassy in Tallinn in 1992. As of 24 April 2012 China has been represented in Estonia by Ambassador Qu Zhe. In addition to the embassy, there is also a Chinese economics and trade representation and a defence attaché office in Estonia.

The current Estonian Ambassador Toomas Lukk presented his credentials to Chinese President Hu Jintao on 9 October 2012. The previous Estonian ambassador to China was Andres Unga from 2007-2012; Mait Martinson was the very first Estonian ambassador to China from 2002-2007. Prior to that Estonia was represented in Beijing by a chargé d’affaires ad interim (Andrei Birov from 1997-2001, Malle Kurbel from 2001-2002).

In 2010 an Estonian Consulate General, which also includes a representation of Enterprise Estonia, began working in Shanghai. Estonia is also represented in China by Honorary Consul Liu Chak-Wan in Macau and, as of February 2011, by Honorary Consul Matthew Lam Kin Hong in Hong Kong. The Macau region, with its developed infrastructure and strategic geographic position, and Hong Kong are attractive to the Estonian business community as well as universities.

Besides promoting economic relations and co-operation on the international level, Estonia is interested in promoting cultural and educational co-operation with China. Estonia has always supported a "One China Policy" (Estonia considers Taiwan an inseparable part of China's territory). Chinese officials and diplomats have repeatedly expressed respect for Estonia’s political choices and view Estonia’s accession to the EU positively.

In the XII Riigikogu there is, as previously, an Estonia-China parliamentary group (led by Sven Sester). The chairman of the NPC China-Estonian Friendship Group established in the summer of 2008 is Ma Wenpu

Visits

To China
May 2013 Minister of Culture Rein Lang
October 2012 Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts in Beijing
September 2012 Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts in Beijing
January 2011 Riigikogu Speaker Ene Ergma in Beijing, Chengdu, and Hong Kong
October 2010 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet at Estonia Day at the Shanghai EXPO
April-May 2010 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet at the opening of the Shanghai EXPO; also a meeting with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi
August 2008 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip at the Olympic Games; also a meeting with Prime Minister Wen
January 2007 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
October 2006 Minister of Defence Jürgen Ligi
August 2005 President Arnold Rüütel
October 2004 Minister of Culture Urmas Paet
April 2002 Minister of Culture Signe Kivi
March 2001 President Lennart Meri

The last bilateral meeting between the prime ministers of Estonia and China took place on 25 November 2013 in Bucharest.

To Estonia
September 2010 Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee of China Li Changchun
November 2009 Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Dejiang
October 2006 Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Jia Qinglin
August 2005 Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing
June 2002 President of the People’s Republic of China Jiang Zemin
September 2000 Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China Li Peng

The last bilateral meeting between the prime ministers of Estonia and China took place on 26 April 2012 in Warsaw.

Bilateral Agreements

The following agreements have been concluded between the governments of Estonia and China:

  1. Agreement on Scientific and Technical Co-operation (came into force 20.04.1992);
  2. Intergovernmental Agreement on Transporting Goods to Estonia with State Credit (came into force 12.05.1992)
  3. Agreement on Trade and Economic Co-operation (came into force 14.04.1993);
  4. Agreement on Cultural, Educational and Scientific Co-operation (came into force 03.09.1993);
  5. Agreement on the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments (came into force 01.06.1994);
  6. Joint Declaration signed by President of the Republic of Estonia Lennart Meri and President of the People’s Republic of China Jiang Zemin in 1994 (came into force 13.06.1994)
  7. Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income (came into force 08.01.1999);
  8. Agreement Relating to Civil Air Transport (came into force 03.01.2000).
  9. Sea Transport Agreement (came into force 18.12.2008)
  10. Legal Assistance Agreement (came into force 31.03.2011)

The joint declaration  signed by President Lennart Meri and President Jiang Zemin in 1994 provides the general framework for the bilateral relations between the two countries.

Economic Relations

Estonia and China have good and stable economic relations, but the distance and differences in size as well as in regulations and culture between the two countries hinder co-operation somewhat. China’s interest towards Estonia is first and foremost due to Estonia’s favourable geographic position, good transport infrastructure, and strong scientific and technical potential. Estonian entrepreneurs are interested in China for the purchase of consumer goods and appliances at competitive prices, a cheap production basis, a vast market, and offering transit opportunities for Chinese goods. Recently our entrepreneurs have also expressed growing interest in bringing in outside investments.

Bilateral economic relations between Estonia and China are the central focus of the meetings of politicians as well as the Joint Commission on Trade and Economic Co-operation that meets every two years. The main discussion topics have included co-operation in transit, logistics, and industrial production. The marketing of Estonian products to China is also an area that has received extensive discussion. The last joint commission meeting, the eighth one to take place, was held on 2 November 2012 in Tallinn.

Now that most of the main economic agreements have been signed, the emphasis is being placed on expanding co-operation at the local level and on the creation of business contacts. Potential areas of co-operation include the manufacture of timber, food products, and other manufactured goods, information technology, education, and tourism. Co-operation in logistics is a developing area that holds potential. China has also shown interest in Estonian biotechnology and oil shale processing.

TRADE

Estonia’s trade with China in the 21st century has been characterised by a dramatic deficit, with the exception being 2006, when trade between the two countries was almost in balance—Estonian export was carried by the electronics sector.

As of the 3rd quarter of 2013, China was in 10th place among Estonia’s trade partners with 0.75% of Estonia’s total exports and 3.43% of total imports.

Trade between Estonia and China 2005-2013 (in millions of euros):

 

Exports

Imports

Balance

2005

33,8

172,3

-138,6

2006

211,4

219,3

-7,8

2007

64,7

237,5

-172,7

2008

53,7

232,3

-178,6

2009

54,9

145,3

-90,5

2010

112

282

 -170

2011

203,1

454,8

 -251,7

2012

101,2

480,6

-379,4

2013 (III kvartal)

85,2

433,7

-348,5

Main articles of export in 2013:

  • Machines and devices (mainly electronic devices and their components) (25.7 million euros)
  • Wood and wood products (13.3 million euros)
  • Mineral products (8.6 million euros)

Main articles of import in 2013:

  • Machines and mechanical devices (279.3 million euros)
  • Textiles and textile products (46.9 million euros)
  • Metals and metal products (26.9 million euros)

Source: Statistics Estonia www.stat.ee

INVESTMENTS

As of 30 June 2013, Chinese direct investments in Estonia totalled 4.6 million euros, i.e. 0.03% of all investments. Estonian investments in China totalled 2.6 million euros, which is 0.05% of all Estonian investments abroad.

Co-operation in culture and education

Cultural co-operation between Estonia and China has been successful. The agreement on cultural, educational and scientific co-operation between the two countries entered into force in September 1993, and since 1998 there have been 2-year implementation plans concluded in order to carry out the agreement. The current plan, signed during the May 2013 visit of Minister of Culture Rein Lang, is in effect until 2017. However, Estonia-China cultural exchange is not limited to the relations foreseen by the agreement: Chinese restaurants are gaining popularity in Estonia, and there are also organisations that bring together people interested in Chinese culture and heritage.

Chinese dance troupes and music groups have performed in Estonia. Chinese art exhibitions have also been held in Estonia. Chinese films have featured in the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. Working together as partner cities, Tallinn and Helsinki have for many years in a row simultaneously held cultural programmes related to the celebration of the Chinese New Year.

In June 2013, the philharmonic orchestra of Hangzhou - a friendship city of Tallinn – gave a concert at Estonia Theatre. The following August, the Children Music Studio by Estonian Television participated in a concert tour of China as a part of the World Peace Choir.

As part of the scientific co-operation between the two countries, the Estonian and Chinese Academies of Science signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Scientific Co-operation, signed by the respective presidents of the academies, Jüri Engelbrecht and academician Lu Yongxiang.

In the fall of 2003, the Gold Prize was given to Estonian artist Benjamin Vasserman at the International Graphics Biennial. In March 2010, Chinese Film Days took place in Estonia and an Estonian Film Festival took place in Shanghai in October. Estonia’s creative industries were introduced in China during the 2010 EXPO in Shanghai.

In 2011, in connection with the 20th anniversary of establishing bilateral relations in 2011, many events introducing Chinese culture took place in Estonia, including three concerts by the Forbidden City Chamber Orchestra.

The bilateral movement of students has increased. More and more Estonian university students are continuing their education in Chinese universities and since China is more interested in student exchange now than it was before, opportunities for scholarships have improved. Thanks to these scholarships, each year since 1994 it has been possible for an Estonian student to study Chinese in China. Chinese language and culture can be studied at Tallinn University. In September 2010, a Confucius Institute was opened at Tallinn University.

Every year more and more Chinese university students find their way to Estonian universities. Chinese students’ interest in studying in Estonia has recently held steady and of all the students that come to study in Estonia from outside the European Union, China is in third place after Russia and the United States. With the support of the Archimedes Foundation, Estonian universities go to China regularly to introduce opportunities for foreign students.

In the fall of 2010 an Estonian language instructor started working at Beijing Foreign Studies University for the first time in history.

Co-operation among local governments

Communication between local governments in Estonia and China has become more and more active. The city of Tallinn has regular contact with its partner city Hangzhou, exchanging experiences in city planning, transportation, and other relevant sectors; cultural contacts have also formed. The last visit took place in June 2013, when the Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra visited Tallinn. In addition, a delegation of the city administrators of Beijing visited the Estonian capital in September 2013. Tartu’s relations with its friendship city Ningbo have intensified thanks to the visit of a delegation from Ningbo to Tartu in 2011 and a reciprocal visit by members of the city government and city council of Tartu to Ningbo in March 2012. As a result of the city-twins relations between Narva and Xiamen, a delegation from Narva visited China in May 2013 and the Chinese visited Narva in August of the same year. Many local governments in China and members of the Association of Estonian Cities have expressed interest in establishing and intensifying friendship relations, as a result of which both sides hope to find useful business contacts and promote trade.

In November 2012 a framework agreement for bilateral relations was established between the Association of Estonian Cities and its co-operation partner the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, with the goal of further strengthening communication and co-operation between local governments.

In March this year, a joint Estonian-Finnish-Swedish delegation visited Jiangsu province and a delegation from the province of Jilin visited Estonia in May. In July, a Jilin business representation was opened in Paldiski and several short business seminars and roundtables are being planned and have already been organized.  Relations between Harju County and Zhejiang province (whose delegation visited Estonia in the spring of 2013) and Paldiski and Guangzhou are in the development stage.

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