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Speech by Ambassador Zhang Weidong at the Annual General Meeting of Icelandic Chinese Cultural Society
13 October 2014

Dear friends, ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening.

It is my pleasure to be invited to join you for the Annual General Meeting of the Icelandic Chinese Cultural Society (ICCS), KÍM. Thanks for your kind invitation, Mr. Arnthor Helgason, Chairman and Friendship Ambassador.

This is my first time to make a speech on such an occasion since I came to Iceland to assume my post on 25th of last September. I would like to take this opportunity to recall some aspects of relations between our two nations and peoples.

China and Iceland established diplomatic relations in 1971, but our traditional friendship has been there for a long time. Ever since the new China was established in 1949, our countries became closer and the ICCS has made great contributions to our relations. ICCS was founded in 1953. In 1955, a delegation of Peking Opera artists visited Reykjavik and performed here, which impressed Icelandic people. The bilateral relations have developed in an all-round way since 8th December 1971 when we established the formal diplomatic ties. In the political field, we support each other and have kept productive high level contacts. The first visit of the Chinese leader to Iceland was that of Vice Premier Geng Biao in 1979, followed by Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen in 1995, Chairman of National People's Congress Li Peng in 2000, President Jiang Zemin in 2002, member of Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China Luo Gan in 2003, member of Politburo Standing Committee and Secretary of the Central Secretariat of CPC He Guoqiang in 2010, Premier Wen Jiabao in 2012 and vice Premier Ma Kai in 2013, to name a few. On the other hand, China has also received high level visits from Iceland, including Foreign Minister Ólafur Jóhannesson in 1982, Prime Minister Steingrímur Hermannsson in 1986, Prime Minister Davíd Oddsson in 1994, Speaker Salome Thorkelsdóttir and President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir in 1995, Foreign Minister Halldór Ásgrímsson in 2001 and Speaker Halldór Blödal in 2005. President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson officially visited China in 2005. He visited China again in 2007 to witness the Special Olympics and also in 2010 to attend the Shanghai Expo. Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir visited China in 2013, followed by Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson's trip to China in June 2014. China and Iceland support each other in international arena. China supported Iceland's interests in its fishing areas. Iceland appreciates China's position of democracy in international relations and its policy that all countries, big or small, are equal. Iceland supported China's resumption of its legitimate seat in the United Nations and voted for China.

In the economic field, statistics from China show that our bilateral trade in 2013 stood at 220 million USD and figures from Icelandic side stood at 450 million USD, an increase of over 1800 times than that in 1971. China has been Iceland's biggest trade partner in Asia since 2006. Iceland is the first west European country who recognizes China's market economy status. Our two governments also signed a series of economic and trade agreements since 1980s, including bilateral swap agreement, which was renewed in 2013. The most important one is the Free Trade Agreement, which was already put into practice on 1 July this year. It is the first bilateral FTA signed between China and a European country and the one which is of the highest openness and widest coverage between China and other countries. Cooperation between our enterprises has been increasing. Huawei, CNOOC, COSCO, Orka Energy, Eimskip and Marel, to name a few, are some of the good examples. The FTA will enhance the existing cooperation and trust between us.

In cultural, scientific and educational fields, Chinese table tennis team and Tianjin acrobatic team visited Iceland. Icelandic concerts and stamp shows were held in China. Saga and Edda have been translated into Chinese and the Analects of Confucius and the Tao Te Ching have been translated into Icelandic. In May 2008, the Northern Light Confucius Institute of the University of Iceland was founded. In September of the same year, Beijing Foreign Studies University established the faculty of Icelandic Language. All Chinese students majoring in Icelandic language will study in the University of Iceland for one year. Apart from that, Peking University, Tsinghua University, China University of Political Science and Law, among others, have had exchange student programs with the University of Iceland and Reykjavik University. Now there are over 150 Icelandic students studying in China. Last year, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of ICCS, a bunch of activities were held, including chess matches and concerts. In July 2013, an scientific cooperation agreement between China and Iceland was signed, which promoted our cooperation in agriculture, geothermal energy and Arctic affairs. At the invitation of Icelandic side, China's icebreaker Snow Dragon visited Iceland successfully in August 2012.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Amity between peoples holds the key to the sound relations between states. People-to-people friendship, in which ICCS plays a key role, forms an important part of bilateral relations. As a Chinese saying goes, as distance tests a horse's strength, so time reveals a person's heart. Perhaps it is not difficult to contribute to China-Iceland friendship for one or two years, but it requires perseverance to do that for decades. Over the past six decades, members of ICCS have visited China many times, held various cultural events and united numerous friends who have good feelings to China and want to know more about China, thus promoting the bilateral friendship and enhancing the mutual understanding and exchanges. Your contributions are fully recognized and appreciated by both Chinese and Icelandic people.

China values its friendship with Iceland and deems Iceland a reliable, good friend and partner in Europe. In recent years, China-Iceland relations have entered the fast track. The high level exchanges have been closer, political trust has been deepened and personnel exchanges in all aspects have been enhanced. Our cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, culture and Arctic affairs are productive, which have brought tangible benefits to our two peoples. Under such a situation, China-Iceland relations have enjoyed steady development, our peoples' exchanges are becoming more and more active. I wish that ICCS makes consistent efforts and work together with all sides to advance China-Iceland relations to a new stage. My Embassy and I myself will always render supports to your work.

Thank you.

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