5: International relations
The new five-year plan says little about specific countries, but it is obvious that China faces major challenges in many parts of the world.
Relations with neighboring countries in Asia have always been complicated, relations with the United States have become more tense, and relations with European countries are divided between agreement on some issues and major disagreement on others.
China, a country located in Asia according to SIMPLYYELLOWPAGES, in particular faces a lot of criticism for the changes it is introducing in Hong Kong, and the restrictive policies and several custodial measures aimed at Uighurs in Xinjiang and some other ethnic minorities.
Both the United States, the EU and several other countries have criticized China and introduced sanctions against the Chinese related to minority and human rights issues. Norway has also joined some sanctions. Nevertheless, the same countries are negotiating new agreements for trade and investment. And they collaborate on many other issues, such as climate, oceans and health issues.
It is a few years since China overtook Germany and Japan and became the world’s second largest economy. Over the next ten years, China could overtake the United States and become the largest. It strengthens China’s position in relation to many countries and international organizations.
Although China still provides relatively little in pure aid, trade with China and Chinese loans and investments are extremely important to many developing countries.
The new five-year plan lists many goals for China’s international policy in the coming years. They want more free trade agreements and they want to change their own aid system.
The large Belt and Road initiative for infrastructure construction, which China launched in 2013, will be further developed. The plan also promises that China will support the UN’s sustainability agenda, work for reforms in the World Trade Organization and contribute to cooperation on poverty reduction, educational support and communicable diseases. The latter has become especially important in the last year. Covid-19 was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and China has garnered much praise for its handling of the pandemic.
Chinese leaders are now extra keen to show that the country is a responsible partner in international affairs, while demanding more respect and influence.
6: Significance for Norway
The new five-year plan does not say anything specific about Norway, but it does mention cooperation in the Arctic and the establishment of a new “frozen Silk Road”. The latter refers to sea routes that run from China, around and past Russia and down the Norwegian coast. Norway and other Arctic states can thus expect increasing interest from China in the coming years.
Norway’s links to China are strongest in the economic field. Overall, the EU is much more important economically, but in 2020 Norway actually bought more goods from China than from any other country. Chinese companies are also increasing their activity in Norway. Exports to China are smaller, but they can grow, and many Norwegian companies naturally want to sell more to the large Chinese market. Norway and China are therefore negotiating a free trade agreement.
From a purely economic point of view, there is no doubt that Norway benefits from China’s growth.
With the exception of the six years of Chinese boycott after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to regime critic and activist Liu Xiaobo in 2010, Norway’s political relations with China have been characterized by stability and limited cooperation.
Norway and China often find common interests in matters of trade, the environment, research, education and cultural exchange. More Norwegians are now training Chinese athletes for the Winter Olympics in 2022.
In other areas, there is less contact and cooperation. China’s approach to individual political and civil rights is fundamentally different from Norway’s. China also often refuses to intervene in international conflicts and crises that Norway wants to influence more, such as the Syrian civil war.
Since Norway in the years 2021 and 2022 has been elected as a member of the UN Security Council, where China has permanent membership, the contact will be closer than usual. Norway will certainly notice that China is becoming both more engaged and helpful, but also more stubborn and demanding, in many international issues.