70 years of diplomatic relations

In 2024, our two countries are celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations. Norway was one of the few first western countries to recognize the PR of China on January 8, 1950 and subsequently to establish diplomatic relations in October of 1954.

Norway became an independant constitutional monarchy in 1905 – then predominantly a country of small farmers and fisherman but also with an emerging heavy industry based on the development of hydropower. In the post WW II era Norway, together with the other Nordic countries, has enjoyed a stable and peaceful development of all sectors of the society and have become known as models for stable western social democracies.

From a country with predominantly a population of small scale coastal fish farmers, Norway gradually developed an industrial fish farming industry based on sea-based salmon farms becoming the leading per capita exporter of fish and fishery products worldwide and in real terms the second largest exporter after China (in 2020: China exported for 20.8 bn US$; Norway exported for 11.9 bn US$). Norway exported 3.1 million tonnes of seafood worth NOK 120.8 billion in 2021. This sets a record in both volume and value and represents the equivalent of 42 million seafood meals every single day of the year. Read more about Norwegian Seafood here.

With the 1969 discovery of one of the largest deep sea petroleum mineral reserves (“Ekofisk”) – Norway embarked on a strategy of careful exploitation and management of these reserves in the North Sea keeping sovereign control and the careful financial management of earnings to the public good.

This brought Norway on to the world stage as a leader in both deep sea drilling petroleum industry based services and more recently as a leading manager of the largest global sovereign fund (Government Pension Fund Global) with a current value of over 1.2 trillon US$: The fund | Norges Bank Investment Management (nbim.no).

These were the two sectors that would dominate the industrial cooperation between China and Norway.

In the Fall of 1971, Henry Kissinger went on a secret mission to China preparing the ground work for President Richard Nixon’s visit to China in February of 1972, which led to a gradual rapprochement with China resulting in a change of the relations between the great powers and pattern in the global power rivalry. China’s rapprochement to the “West” helped pave the way for western and Norway’s political engagement with China and an opening of the promotion of business relations with China.

The first ministerial visit by Norway to China took place in 1973, led by Norway’s Foreign Minister Mr. Dagfinn Vårvik. This gave an impetus for a series of visits and initiatives for development of economic cooperation between China and Norway. The Norwegian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs visited China in 1974, followed by a visit by Mr. Einar Magnussen – the Norwegian Minister of Trade the following year. In 1978, both the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Knut Frydenlund and the Minister of Petroleum Bjartmar Gjerde visited China.

Gjerde found that the visit was “one of the most interesting opportunities for oil cooperation with other countries that we have come across until now”.

As early as 1975, China’s deputy oil minister Zhang Wenbin led a delegation to Norway to study the Norwegian oil industry, and in 1978, the Norwegian Aker Group, Kværner and Veritas were all in negotiations with Chinese counterparts for participation in China’s petroleum and hydropower sectors.

The engagement with China in these early years were implemented during a period of the Chinese Cultural Revolution when China was politically highly unstable. Nevertheless, it lay the foundation for Norway’s engagement with China before Deng Xiaoping formally launched China’s economic program for reform and opening up at the Communist Party’s Central Committee meeting in December of 1978. Year 2023 marked the 45th anniversary of China’s reform and opening.

Since becoming member of the WTO in October of 2001, with its vast population of over 1.4 billion, the emergence of China as a major player on the world stage has created new opportunities but also geopolitical challenges and the emergence of perceived geopolitical rivalries.

China is now a integral and crucial contributor to the global economy and the top trading partner to more than 120 countries and the second most important economy after the United States as measured in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the largest economy as measured in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). China is now the driver of the powerful economic growth of its neighbouring (ASEAN) countries and the global economy.

Until recently, China has shown remarkable resilience in the face of current trade and financial constraints due to a veritabel explosive increase in a domestic service based industry. The introduction of the policy of so called “Rural Revitalization”, together with trade integration, has been the driver for the eradication of poverty in China (UN 2030) helping billions of people become wealthier, healthier, and better educated.

The Rural Revitalization Policy emphasizes the importance of rural development, including the need to develop rural businesses, create a pleasant living environment, promote civility and effective governance, and improve the living standards of rural residents. This policy with the country’s commitment to opening up through high-quality development of China’s Service Sector is now creating unprecedented opportunities for exchange and cooperation within all sectors of society.

The last decade, China has taken a host of important initiatives with the development of the Shanghai Cooperation; the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); and the BRICS Initiative & BRICS New Development Bank. With the recent decision for BRICS expansion from 2024 (BRICS + 6) we are now in a new era of true multipolarity.

With the current geopolitical challenges with east-west polarization driven by a legacy media that increasingly shows itself to be in-ward looking and propagandized – we need now more than ever – initiatives that contribute to creating opportunities for people-to-people exchanges between our two countries in all sectors of society.

Read more about the history of China Norway Diplomatic Relations (in Norwegian, please see below)

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