Finland sees opportunities in Belt and Road Initiative

By Christopher Georgiou
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, January 11, 2018
Adjust font size:

Last year, Finland celebrated the 100th anniversary of its independence. Finland was one of the first Western countries to establish diplomatic relations with China, in 1950, and also one of the first capitalist countries to sign a bilateral trade agreement with China, in 1953. The relationship continues to move forward based on close cooperation, as China embarks on its own dream of national rejuvenation.

The Finnish Ambassador to China, Jarno Syrjälä, looks ahead to the new year in the Finnish Embassy Beijing on Jan. 5, 2018. [Photo by Christopher Georgiou /]


Last November, ETLA, a respected economic think tank in Finland, issued an in-depth investigation into the economic relations between Finland and China spanning the last few decades, entitled "The Lion and the Dragon." The authors, Markku Kotilainen and Ville Kaitila, identified potential growth areas for expanded contacts between the two countries.


While trade in goods has been relatively stable over the last decade, "the most important items in exports include telecommunications, information technology and information services, transport, fees for the use of intellectual property rights and tourism." This predominance is due to "the Chinese trying to steer investments to the ICT and clean-tech sectors."


At the recent 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, General Secretary Xi Jinping specifically highlighted the continued efforts needed in the anti-corruption and anti-poverty drives, as well as in protecting the environment. Finland consistently scores highly in all international rankings in these fields.


Finnish President Sauli Niinistö hosted President Xi's state visit last April where agreements were reached including one on collaboration to develop smart green cities. Sustainable environmental practices coupled with smart innovation have placed Finland in the forefront of the green economy. reporter Christopher Georgiou met Finnish Ambassador to China, Jarno Syrjälä, to discuss Finland's excellent record at home and the new areas of cooperation with China. Excerpts of the interview follow:


On Finland's effective protection of the environment


More than 40 percent of Finland's energy supply is renewable, and it is, therefore, on its way to become a carbon-neutral society by the year 2050.


There is a high respect for nature as urbanization came relatively late to Finland, and has since happened very fast. It was an agrarian society when Finland became a nation 100 years ago. We don't have many resources – no oil or gas. We have forests; so, paper, timber and pulp are very important products for us; so, in an economic sense we have to make sure we manage this in a sustainable way.


That's why we are trying to introduce a national system based on a bio-economy, so that the goal for Finland is to become a low carbon, energy efficient society. Waste must be recycled and used very effectively to produce energy.


Currently, I believe, more than 40 percent of Finland's energy supply is renewable, and so the country is on its way to become a carbon-neutral society by the year 2050. This is a necessity due to limited resources, and it's where we are trying to cooperate with China on many different levels.


Working with China


This was raised between the Presidents in April, an emphasis on deepening cooperation on smart and green cities and how they should be constructed. For example, sustainable city planning is a very concrete idea for our cooperation.


One thing going ahead is smart green cities. In particular Finland is working on modular construction, which improves efficiency, saves energy and materials and produces fewer emissions. I think the target is that, within 10 years, 30 percent of the construction in Chinese cities will use modular construction. It starts with the planning and requires different layers of cooperation. We also have many sustainable and reliable heating solutions and have some pilot projects going on in Nanjing.


Why corruption is so low in Finland


There is a long tradition of government openness, civic activism, social trust and transparency.


It's part of our neighborhood and other Nordic countries are doing quite well, although we are not perfect.


Of course, we have a high standard of living, and a democratic system, yet it doesn't explain everything. Finnish history and traditions also play their part. In the past, Finland was sparsely populated. People worked hard, and communication was rather rare and followed the form of a straightforward, no-nonsense approach, which valued deeds over words. This kind of society and mentality entailed that a crook would find it easy to succeed, and would almost certainly become an outlaw.


In addition to cultural and historical reasons, there is a strong commitment from leaders to anti-corruption; a high GDP per capita, low inequality, literacy rates close to 100 percent as well as human rights and gender equality all play a crucial role.


There is a long tradition of government openness, civic activism, social trust and transparency whereby budget information must be very transparent to ensure no waste or misappropriation of public funds, as well as a code of conduct for public servants in addition to strong legal frameworks and an independent and efficient judiciary.


On Finland's place on the Belt and Road Initiative


Participants can get involved according to their strengths and capabilities.


We see it as a way to increase connections, both tangible and intangible, and a means to foster economic growth throughout the Eurasian continent. We see it as a practical multi-lateral initiative where many participants can get involved according to their strengths and capabilities.


It contains different angles of connectivity. The national air carrier Finnair has six destinations in China, and will add another route to Nanjing this year. We are looking at ways to move goods through rail connections, based on the first trial runs from Kouvola to Xi'an.


This is very crucial for us, as we are trying to export more food products to China. Shipping it can take over 50 days at present; however, by train it can reach China in around 15 days.


The Belt and Road Initiative also incorporates digital infrastructure and we are cooperating in digital connectivity in 5G, the Internet of Things, smart cities and solutions and transportation. Nokia is still our flagship in many ways. We are also looking forward to have a presence at the Shanghai Expo this November.


On the Arctic Ice Silk Road and Winter Roads


In addition, Finland now holds the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, consisting of Nordic countries plus the U.S., Russia and Canada, while China is an observer. Along with winter sports and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, there is plenty of room for further cooperation and exchanges.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from