The frozen ties between Norway and China don’t seem to thaw any time soon. Wednesday China signalled that China hasn’t forgot nor forgiven the awarding of imprisoned Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo with The Nobel Peace Prize two years ago.
It remained up to Norway to repair the rift that has seen trade ties disrupted and political contacts put on hold, Assistant Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu told reporters Wednesday.
“I hope Norway will value bilateral relations and work for the restoration and development of ties,” Ma said at a press briefing.
Ma’s comments were the government’s first on the tensions since Chinese writer Mo Yan won the Nobel for literature in October. That victory, the first literature win by a Chinese citizen, was widely cheered by the Chinese government, in stark contrast to the condemnation with which it greeted Liu’s award.
The award to Liu infuriated China, which accused Norway of honouring a criminal. Wednesday Ma repeated previous Chinese statements accusing Norway’s government of supporting the Nobel jury’s 2010 decision.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg offered no apology when commenting on the Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister’s invitation to repair relations. When speaking with Norwegian TV2 Stoltenberg stressed that the Nobel Prize Committee is an independent body.
The frozen relations have coursed major trouble for Norwegian companies and products at the Chinese market. Specialty products with a strong national identity — such as fjord-farmed salmon — have been slapped with import restrictions and Norwegian companies have had problems with staff visas and other obstacles.
“The parties have not changed position. The Chinese government said from day one that this was an absurd, mistaken price. Many people in Norway probably thought that this would heal by itself, but after two years the frozen relationship has become normal and time only worsen the situation,” said Henning Kristoffersen from Det Norske Veritas (DNV).
He sees no solutions in sight with the latest comments and stresses that Norwegians companies are suffering because of the deadlock.
Chance to make up next week
Both Chinese Premier Wen Jiabo and Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg attend the Asem summit in Laos Monday and Thursday next week. It will be first time that Norway participates in the Asian – European gathering.