2013 saw fruitful cooperation between China and Denmark in political, economic, social and cultural areas with more than 10 high-ranking Danish officials visiting China. Friis Arne Petersen, Danish Ambassador to China and Mongolia, recently sat down with Beijing Review reporter Chen Ran, to share his thoughts on deepening Sino-Danish relations. Excerpts:
Beijing Review: The Danish Embassy has opened several accounts on social media platforms popular in China. You have a verified Sina Weibo account yourself, with more than 31,000 followers. Why is a social media presence in China important to you?
Friis Arne Petersen: I think social media is a very important part of daily life for many Chinese citizens. There were few Internet users in China 10 years ago, not to mention social media. Now, almost everybody here knows about social media and is active on it. The way they blog, express themselves, and exchange information is interesting, as is the transparency it has created.
The interaction between citizens, companies, press and embassies is more intense than ever before. So for us, the Danish Embassy, we have to realize that this is ongoing. We have to participate in this conversation. We try to tell others about our policies and views, our ministers' visits and their agenda here in concrete terms as much as possible. That can be seen and heard through our embassy's website, Weibo and WeChat accounts.
Denmark enjoys a stellar reputation when it comes to clean energy technology. How could Denmark help contribute to environmental protection in China?
I think energy cooperation is very important for both countries, not just in creating new energy policies, energy saving and energy efficiency, but also in the whole related issue between energy, economy and the environment.
China is a big country with 9.6 million square km and a population of 1.3 billion, but with insufficient arable land, water and other resources. In order to continue the country's impressive and rapid economic growth and create a high living standard for more people in the future, Chinese politicians really have to understand, capture and define the optimization of resources.
We have the most attractive environmental policies and the most progressive energy policies. So I think China has to try to be part of it, which means to cooperate with us in a win-win conversation, and even to go one step further and excel in the wake of urbanization. So far, over 700 million Chinese citizens live in cities, but in the next 20 years, millions of more Chinese people will want to live in cities. You have to try to make economic behavior drive this attractive development toward your objectives of a more sustainable, more economically feasible, more environmentally attractive and more energy-saving society.
Over 480 Danish companies have a presence in China. Danfoss providing heating system reconstruction solutions to Beijing's Niujie Community is a concrete example of what is happening now between Denmark and China. The technology the Danish company introduced used as little electric power and heat energy as possible by keeping a constant temperature in rooms.
I think with the new policies we can have our standard of living increase constantly, while not necessarily using resources in an unsustainable or irrational way.
China signed three agreements to boost relations with the EU at the 16th China-EU Summit last November, with investment protection and market access being the primary focus for the deals. How do you view the prospects of Sino-EU trade cooperation?
The EU is by far the biggest economy in the world. We have 510 million citizens in the EU, which now consists of 28 countries. Actually, we have a GDP that is bigger than both China and the United States. Given that situation, I think the EU and China have to have important relations.
EU-China relations are not only trade and investment, but also politically important. I think that the world is developing into a more multi-polar place after the end of the Cold War. It was clear that there were a couple of decades with the United States leading a uni-polar world, but China, India, Japan, Russia, Brazil and the EU have new roles in the international community. All these countries have to cooperate and create international cooperation.
Fortunately, it will be very much marked and defined by a lot of interdependence, mutual win-win considerations and economic cooperation that would likely stabilize and hopefully also create more predictable cooperation. Peace will prevail in this type of scenario because it is in all countries' interest to stay stable and friendly, and compete on economy, trade, innovation and being a productive society or a sustainable society—an environment friendly, energy friendly and progressive society.
I think the EU and China have a lot to offer each other in the coming years. Trade is growing quickly. Investment hopefully will be growing too. We often talk about a sort of two-way traffic. It is fair to say that during the first 20 years of China's impressive economic growth, most investments came from the EU to China, not vice versa, and it is not equal. But China has now come such a long way in its economic development model that it is starting to invest more outside. I think the EU will be hopefully the continent that catches a lot of attention from China.
Denmark accounts for only 1 percent of the EU's population, but our export share probably reaches 3 to 4 percent. We are fortunate to have a trade surplus with China in 2013, which only a few countries do. We also hope Denmark will have a lot of brands and technologies that Chinese companies could participate in developing, thus making growth and creating more jobs in both countries. I am really optimistic about the EU and China's future together.