Sweden in China – Ambassador Anna Lindstedt

Her Excellency Anna Lindstedt is the Swedish Ambassador to China, in charge of Sweden’s largest bilateral foreign mission. The ambassador is in Beijing since September 2016 but Asia is nothing new to her. She has previously worked as the Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam and has been based at the Swedish embassies in Indonesia and Pakistan.

She is also the former Swedish chief negotiator for the climate change agreement in Paris. In that role she was part of landing the unprecedented 2015 Paris agreement.

“We had meetings across the world and only the fortunate few get to be part of decision-making on an international agreement of that calibre. So that was very exciting, but very tough work,” the ambassador recalls the six years of negotiations.

“My first meeting was in Mexico in 2010 when I was the Ambassador there. That is how I became involved, and then Mexico managed to gain confidence for the negotiations by doing useful diplomatic footwork. The year after my first climate meeting as the climate ambassador in Durban [the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP17) held in South Africa] we were given a new mandate to negotiate a new agreement.”

“We aimed to conclude the negotiations in Paris 2015 – which we succeed with. The U.S. showed leadership in the bilateral discussions with China – one of the conditions that they would succeed. And China has really taken a constructive, leading role in the post agreement debate. And now China appears to be the sole leader when the U.S is faltering. One could see a large, positive change during the years I worked with these questions. But the EU has also played a large role and Sweden influencing – urging on – within the EU and the world.”

The conversation continues on the topic of the environment, as we happen to talk about the air pollution in ScandAsia’s hometown that is Bangkok, and the Ambassador’s Beijing. Air pollution is a big problem in these cities, and the ambassador, when asked, confirms a there are Swedish solutions for this strongly tapping into the needs for cleaner in-door air all over China.

“Yes, the need is enormous on bad days, even when having air purifiers indoors we can still feel the pollution when it gets bad; one gets a headache directly,” says Anna Lindstedt.“

She explains that the Embassy of Sweden supports Swedish companies that are providers within this field.

“Overall, Swedish environmental solutions are in big demand. There are so many examples that give significances to this development. For instance Chinese journalists visited Blue air in Sweden less than a year ago, and recently we have seen several new Swedish start-ups within air purification and air filter masks that have entered the market.”

Asked about her new role – six months into the Ambassador posting in China when the interview takes place – she comments: “It’s still very new to me, but a very exciting workplace and country, with many tough challenges, while also very exciting and fun. And we have good, close and deep relations.”

“And as we [Sweden] are now in the Security Council we have a special inroad and follow various conflicts in the world. So there are many things to monitor and keep track of. We follow politics closely.“

“At this embassy I am fortunate to have many skilled locally employed and sent out co-workers and special attaches for agriculture, culture, police and customs co-operations, and defense,” she continues.

When it comes to trade and exchange the Ambassador states that there are currently about 600 Swedish companies with presence in China, and there are new companies established all the time. But that she has reason to believe that the number in reality probably is much higher than 600 and that there could be locally established start-ups active in the country that the Embassy is not even aware of.

The size of Sweden’s China mission’s is also reflected in Sweden’s China representation also handles most visas for Sweden in the whole world – 52000 in 2016. “Beijing issues most visas and our General Consulate for Hong Kong and Macau is number two,” says the Ambassador.

“And travel from China to Sweden increased every year with 50 percent during the last five years; tourists but also business connections – so all kinds. The visas that our Embassy and consulate issue are also just a fraction, because many [visitors to Sweden] apply to other Schengen countries as well. One can say that it’s more of everything!”

The Ambassador says that trade and investment promotion; CSR; public diplomacy; Sweden promotion; and culture always are in important areas for the Embassy of Sweden in China.

”The main tasks of the cultural section are to introduce various aspects of Swedish culture into China as well as promoting and facilitating exchanges within the cultural field – with the goal to stimulate long-lasting relations between Sweden and China.

Anna Lindstedt mentions as well that 2017 is a Swedish cultural year in China. Stay tuned for upcoming activities via ScandAsia!

A line-up of Swedish minister visits to China is being carried out during 2017 to Beijing, to Shanghai and other parts of the country.

The Embassy is focusing on innovation during 2017. The Embassy’s vision is to advance, showcase and bring forth opportunities for mutual interest within innovation, career and entrepreneurship. There will be efforts in particular within green innovation, life sciences, sustainable transportation and energy.

In this connection it can also be mentioned that following on the inaugural Sino-Swedish Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum in 2016, Sweden-China Forum (SCF) will arrange two annually forums in Sweden and China.

Also the Nordic Design and Innovation Week will once again take place in Shanghai, jointly arranged by all the collaborators within Team Sweden.

About Joakim Persson

Freelance business and lifestyle photojournalist

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