Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod met on the evening of 26 November his Chinese host and counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi for a working dinner. It is the first time in three years that a Danish Foreign Minister visits China and despite China’s strict covid-19 restrictions, the Ministers held a physical meeting at a luxury resort near the city of Hangzhou, south of Shanghai, TV2 reports.
Before the physical meeting, Jeppe Kofod had held virtual meetings with both the Chinese Minister of Trade and the Chinese Minister of the Environment as well as a meeting with Danish business people in China. Those meetings were gathered around video links at the Danish Consulate General in Shanghai and in Beijing, while Jeppe Kofod spoke from his safe covid-19 bubble in Hanzhou.
According to TV 2’s China correspondent Christina Boutrup, it doesn’t just show how strict China follows its covid-19 restrictions, it also shows how extraordinary the Danish Foreign Minister’s visit to China is.
“Jeppe Kofoed had to fly directly from Japan to Hangzhou to be placed in this closed covid-19 bubble. This is the first time in three years that a Danish foreign minister has visited China. But it is not unusual. There have also not been many other foreign ministers from Europe visiting since the pandemic broke out,” she says.
However, the pandemic is not the only reason why years have passed since China and Denmark have met at such a high level and “Denmark and China have traditionally had a really good relationship, but lately the relationship has been cooler,” Christina Boutrup says.
The Western critique of how China handled the outbreak of covid-19 in Wuhan from the beginning can be mentioned in passing – a critique in which Denmark has also participated.
The Danish government’s decision to in practice excludes the Chinese telecom giant Huawei from the task of creating the Danish 5G network. A drawing in media Jyllands-Posten, where covid-19 was drawn into the Chinese flag and most recently, Tibet posters being placed in front of the Chinese Embassy in Copenhagen during the recent election campaign in Denmark.
Despite the strains in the relationship between the two nations, Denmark still needs a close relationship with the country’s fifth-largest export market and during a telephone conversation between the Ministers in January, Jeppe Kofod said he hoped to have the opportunity to visit China as soon as possible.
His visit to China was announced last week while he was on his Asia Tour visiting Indonesia and Japan and according to Christina Boutrup, there are several reasons why a meeting now was important. Among other things, Denmark and China’s strategic collaboration in sectors such as medicine, food, and the green area have just expired and it’s important to make a new for the period 2021-2024.
Moreover, she says that China is in the process of its green transition and a goal has been set to be CO2-neutral by 2060, and to achieve that goal, they need some of the advanced solutions Denmark has. “China is the country in the world that invests the most in green technologies. But Denmark still has some very specific areas, such as water purification and district heating systems, where Danish companies are at the forefront,” she says.
In addition, China has discovered that when important decisions have to be made in Greenland about raw materials or foreign labor, Denmark is often involved. Their interests in the Arctic go through Denmark, Christina Boutrup explains.