Estonia and China
|-||Culture and Education|
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. The chairman of the NPC China-Estonian Friendship Group established in the summer of 2008 is Ma Wenpu.
|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|
|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.
The following agreements have been concluded between the governments of Estonia and China:
- Agreement on Scientific and Technical Co-operation (came into force 20.04.1992);
- Agreement on Trade and Economic Co-operation (came into force 14.04.1993);
- Agreement on Cultural, Educational and Scientific Co-operation (came into force 03.09.1993);
- Agreement on the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments (came into force 01.06.1994);
- 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);
- Agreement Relating to Civil Air Transport (came into force 03.01.2000).
- Sea Transport Agreement (came into force 18.12.2008)
- Legal Assistance Agreement (came into force 31.03.2011)
Also of note is the joint declaration on the development of bilateral relations signed in 1994 by President of Estonia Lennart Meri and President of China Jiang Zemin.
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.
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.
In the first half of 2012 China was in 11th place among Estonia’s trade partners with 2.2% of Estonia’s total foreign trade.
Estonian foreign trade with China 2005-2012 (in millions EUR):
|2012 half year||58.6||216.3||-157.6|
Source: Statistical Office of Estonia www.stat.ee
According to the Bank of Estonia, as of 30 March 2012 Chinese direct investments in Estonia totalled 7.2 million euros. Estonian direct investments in China totalled 2.3 million euros.
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 plan currently in effect will expire at the end of 2012, so an implementation plan is currently being compiled for the years 2013-2017. 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 the fall of 2003, the Gold Prize was given to Estonian artist Benjamin Vasserman at the International Graphics Biennial. In July 2004, the Saku Children’s Choir visited Tianjin and children from Tianjin visited Estonia in August. In March 2010, Chinese Film Days took place in Estonia. In October 2010 an Estonian Film Festival took place in Shanghai. Estonia’s creative industries were introduced in China during the 2010 EXPO in Shanghai.
In connection with the 20th anniversary of establishing bilateral relations in 2011, many events introducing Chinese culture took place in Estonia; these included 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 Tartu University and 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. In 2011 there were 75 Chinese students studying in Estonian universities. During the same period there were 12 Chinese researchers working in Estonia, which is 4.1% of all foreign researchers. 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.
The Estonian and Chinese Academies of Science signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Scientific Co-operation in May 2000. It was signed by President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences Jüri Engelbrecht and his Chinese colleague, President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Lu Yongxiang.
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. 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. 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.