China Daily Global Publishes A Signed Article by Ambassador Jin Zhijian Entitled Bosom Friends Though Miles Apart
2019/08/29

On August 29 2019, China Daily Global published a signed article by Ambassador Jin Zhijian entitled Bosom Friends Though Miles Apart. The full text is as follows:

Bosom friends though miles apart

China and Iceland are building on the long friendship particularly in the fields of, sustainable development, Arctic issue and environmental protection

Jin Zhijian

 

In January 2018, after 27 years, I returned to Iceland, the country both familiar and unfamiliar to me, as the 14th Chinese ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary. I was sent to Iceland as the government-funded student to study overseas in 1985. When I stepped on this remote land the first time, I was deeply impressed by the unique scenery and the hardworking people in this country of "ice and fire". Almost six years of study and work experience in Iceland has linked me and this country together closely.

As one of the few Chinese diplomats who have studied and worked in Iceland, I regard Iceland as my second hometown. So the return was like going back home. I am amazed at the great changes that have taken place in Iceland over the past 30 years. She is no longer an isolated island, and has turned into a leader in the trend of globalization.

Modern communication technology has eliminated the distance between Iceland and the outside world. Free trade has given it wings. The creative Icelandic people work hard and its national economic strength and people's living standards have improved greatly. Hit hard by the 2008 international financial crisis, Iceland's economy has rapidly recovered through the implementation of strict capital controls, stable and effective macroeconomic policies and the development of tourism. It has achieved rapid economic growth for eight consecutive years. It is among the best performing of the developed economies. Iceland's ranking in the UN Global Happiness Index continues to be high and it is also rated as the safest country in the world.

Thirty years ago, it was difficult to find a Chinese face on the streets of Iceland. Nowadays, Chinese tourists can be seen both in the capital Reykjavik and in tourist attractions across the country. Iceland is no longer strange and mysterious. Many Chinese people hold the belief that "If going to the moon is impossible within this life, then go to Iceland". Also, the outstanding performance of the Icelandic men's national football team in international competitions such as the World Cup in Russia and the unique refueling method of Icelandic fans "Viking Roar" have become talking points among the Chinese.

More and more Icelandic people are beginning to learn Chinese and take keen interest in Chinese culture. While Chinese brands such as Huawei can be found everywhere and Alipay mobile payment is used broadly in Iceland, it is also becoming common to greet people with "Ni Hao" (Hello in Chinese).

It will not be wrong to describe China's relationship with Iceland through an ancient Chinese saying: "Though bosom friends miles apart, no distance if sharing a heart".

Exchanges between China and Iceland date back 260 years.

Shortly after the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Icelandic Chinese Cultural Society (ICCS) was established in Iceland in 1953. Since then, it has built a bridge for friendly exchanges between China and Iceland.

The former president of ICCS, Arnþór Helgason, visited China dozens of times and has become one of the few foreign friends awarded the title of "Friendship Ambassador" by China.

China and Iceland opened a new chapter in relations with the establishment of diplomatic ties on December 8, 1971. China's advocacy of equality between large and small countries enjoys popular support in Iceland. Also, China provided Iceland timely help during the 1970s Cod War with Great Britain, in the 1973 volcanic eruption on Westman Island and in the 2008 financial crisis.

On the other hand, Iceland was the first Western European country that recognized China's market economy status, the first European country to sign a free trade agreement with China, and also, one of the first founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank . Bilateral economic and trade cooperation has been expanding. In 2018, trade volume between the two countries exceeded $700 million for the first time. China has become the largest trading partner of Iceland in Asia.

Iceland's advanced geothermal technology and experience has been promoted in many places in China. Nearly 90 Chinese geothermal experts have been trained at the United Nations Geothermal University in Iceland. The China-Iceland Arctic Science Observatory, officially launched in Karholl in October last year, the second arctic station after "Chinese Arctic Yellow River Station", will play an important role in scientific research in the Arctic.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting Iceland reached nearly 90,000 person-times in 2018, showing a good momentum. More and more Icelandic people, too, are visiting China for business, tourism or study.

There are various forms of cultural exchanges too. China's "Happy Chinese New Year" event entered Iceland in 2019 to a warm response. A number of Icelandic language talents have been cultivated in China since China's Beijing Foreign Studies University opened its Icelandic language major in 2008. The Confucius Institute at the University of Iceland has become a center for promoting Chinese language and culture, since its establishment 10 years ago. Chinese classic literature, such as The Analects of Confucius and The Tao Teh Ching, are enjoyed by Icelanders. Icelandic literature like the Sagas of Icelanders has also been introduced to China.

The two countries share common interests in safeguarding world peace and stability, international multilateral systems, and free trade, and cooperate closely in the fields of climate change, sustainable development, and environmental protection.

As the People's Republic of China celebrates the 70th anniversary of its founding , it is fascinated to review the extraordinary path China-Iceland relations have taken. 2021 will be the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The Belt and Road Initiative and the concept of building a community with a shared future for humankind proposed by President Xi Jinping will provide new impetus to developing China-Iceland relations. The two countries have broad prospects for cooperation in infrastructure construction, trade and investment, tourism, the Arctic research, climate change and environmental protection. Through joint efforts, China and Iceland can write a new chapter in the history of their bilateral relations.

 

The author is Chinese ambassador to Iceland. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

 

The article can also be read on line:

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/global/2019-08/29/content_37506299.htm