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China

(last updated: 12.11.2015)
 

 

Since Estonia regained its independence, Estonia-China relations have developed at a rapid pace and are very good. The development of relations has taken place thanks to reciprocal initiatives: many visits have taken place between the two nations and the most important bilateral agreements have been concluded.

The Republic of Estonia and the People’s Republic of China established diplomatic relations on 11 September 1991 during the visit of China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Tian Zengpei to Estonia. China opened its embassy in Tallinn in 1992. Since 14 February 2018, China has been represented in Estonia by Ambassador Li Chao. In addition to the embassy, there is also a Chinese economics and trade representation and a defence attaché office in Estonia.

The current Estonian Ambassador Andres Unga presented his credentials to Chinese President Xi Jinping on 28 August 2019. Mait Martinson was the very first Estonian ambassador to China from 2002-2007. Prior to that, Estonia was represented in Beijing by a chargé d’affaires ad interim (Andrei Birov from 1997-2001, Malle Kurbel from 2001-2002).

Between 2010 and 2016, an Estonian Consulate General, which included a representation of Enterprise Estonia, operated in Shanghai. Its activities have been consolidated at the Estonian Embassy in Beijing. The representative of Enterprise Estonia in China is Ilaria Perla and Estonia's cultural representative is Anete Elken. Estonia is also represented in China by Honorary Consul Liu Chak-Wan in Macau and Honorary Consul Matthew Lam Kin Hong in Hong Kong. The Macau region, with its developed infrastructure and strategic geographic position, and Hong Kong are attractive to the Estonian business community, as well as universities.

Besides promoting economic relations and cooperation on the international level, Estonia is also interested in promoting cultural and educational cooperation with China. Estonia has always supported a "One-China Policy" (Estonia considers Taiwan an inseparable part of China's territory). Chinese officials and diplomats have repeatedly expressed respect for Estonia’s political choices.

In the XIV Riigikogu there is, as previously, an Estonia-China parliamentary group (led by Kalev Kallo). The chairman of the NPC China-Estonian Friendship Group, established in the summer of 2008, is Mr Xiu Fuijm.

Visits

To China
November 2019 Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik (Shanghai Expo)
May 2019 Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik (the 17+1 meeting of agricultural ministers in Hangzhou)
November 2018 Minister of Entrepreneurship Rene Tammist (Hi-Tech Fair in Shenzhen)
November 2018 Minister of Rural Affairs Tarmo Tamm with a business delegation (Shanghai Expo)
September 2018 Visit by the President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid
January 2018 President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor (a visit of presidents of parliaments of the NB8 countries)
April 2017 The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu in Beijing
November 2016 Minister of Rural Affairs Urmas Kruuse (attending the Kunming agricultural expo)
April 2016 Minister of Culture Indrek Saar at the Estonian Week in Beijing (signing of the cooperation agreement in the field of cinema) 
April 2016 Minister of Rural Affairs Urmas Kruuse at the Estonian Week in Beijing (signing of the protocol for the safety of fish products)
December 2015 Minister of Rural Affairs Urmas Kruuse (signing of the interministerial cooperation protocol)
November 2015 Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas in Shanghai and Beijing
January 2015 Foreign Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus in Beijing; also opened the new Embassy building
June 2014 Minister of Foreign Trade and Entrepreneurship Anne Sulling in Ningbo
May 2013 Minister of Culture Rein Lang
October 2012 Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts in Beijing
September 2012 Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts in Beijing
January 2011 Riigikogu Speaker Ene Ergma in Beijing, Chengdu, and Hong Kong
October 2010 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet at Estonia Day at the Shanghai EXPO
April-May 2010 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet at the opening of the Shanghai EXPO; also a meeting with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi
August 2008 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip at the Olympic Games; also a meeting with Prime Minister Wen
January 2007 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
October 2006 Minister of Defence Jürgen Ligi
August 2005 President Arnold Rüütel
October 2004 Minister of Culture Urmas Paet
April 2002 Minister of Culture Signe Kivi
March 2001 President Lennart Meri

 

To Estonia
February 2020 Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Qin Gang
October 2019 Minister of Culture and Tourism Luo Shugang
September 2019 A delegation of the Baltic-China group of the People's Congress
September 2019 Vice Minister of Agriculture Wu Hongyao
June 2019 Vice Minister of the Administration of Customs Zhang Jiwen
May 2017 Vice Minister of Social Affairs Zhang Yizhen
April 2017 Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli
October 2016 Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Liu Haixing (bilateral consultations)
May 2016 Secretary-General of the State Council Yang Jing
October 2015 Vice Minister of Culture Ding Wei
January 2015 Vice Minister of Agriculture Niu Dun
July 2014 Delegation of the Communist Party of China's People's Congress Foreign Affairs Commission headed by its chairman Fu Ying
September 2010 Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee of China Li Changchun
November 2009 Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Dejiang
October 2006 Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Jia Qinglin
August 2005 Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing
June 2002 President of the People’s Republic of China Jiang Zemin
September 2000 Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China Li Peng

The prime ministers of Estonia and China have bilateral meetings at the summit of Central and Eastern European countries and China in November 2013 in Bucharest, in December 2014 in Belgrade, in November 2015 in Suzhou, in November 2016 in Riga, in November 2017 in Budapest, in July 2018 in Sofia and in April 2019 in Dubrovnik.

Bilateral Agreements

The following agreements have been concluded between the governments of Estonia and China:

  1. Agreement on Scientific and Technical Co-operation (came into force 20.04.1992)
  2. Intergovernmental Agreement on Transporting Goods to Estonia with State Credit (came into force 12.05.1992)
  3. Agreement on Trade and Economic Co-operation (came into force 14.04.1993)
  4. Agreement on Cultural, Educational and Scientific Co-operation (came into force 03.09.1993)
  5. Agreement on the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments (came into force 01.06.1994)
  6. Joint Declaration signed by President of the Republic of Estonia Lennart Meri and President of the People’s Republic of China Jiang Zemin in 1994 (came into force 13.06.1994)
  7. Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income (came into force 08.01.1999); an amendment to the agreement was signed in Tallinn on 09.12.2014
  8. Agreement Relating to Civil Air Transport (came into force 03.01.2000)
  9. An agreement on the abolition of visas between Estonia and the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (came into force 29.07.2001)
  10. An agreement on the abolition of visas between Estonia and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (came into force 30.07.2001)
  11. Sea Transport Agreement signed by the Minister of Economic Affairs and Transportation Juhan Parts and China's Vice Transportation Minister Xu Zuyuanon on 24.09.2008 (came into force 18.12.2008)
  12. Legal Assistance Agreement between Estonia and the Republic of China (came into force 31.03.2011)
  13. Agreement on Access to Higher Education and the Mutual Recognition of Documents Certifying Higher Education (signed on 27.04.2015)
  14. Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation between Estonia and Hong Kong (came into force 18.12.2019)

The joint declaration signed by President Lennart Meri and President Jiang Zemin in 1994 provides the general framework for the bilateral relations between the two countries.

On the ministerial level, there are a number of memoranda of cooperation and joint actions plans (such as the memoranda signed in November 2017 on cooperation on e-commerce and cooperation in the framework of the Digital Silk Road on data compatibility, as well as the intergovernmental memorandum on the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road initiative).

Economic Relations

Estonia and China have good and stable economic relations, which are part f the general economic relations between the EU and China. So far, main areas have been trade cooperation, including e-commerce, logistics, industrial production amd investments. Considering the current state of economic relations between the two countries, with major agreements concluded, the focus now is on expanding cooperation through direct contacts between companies and authorities. 

TRADE

Estonia’s trade with China in the 21st century has been characterised by a dramatic deficit, with the exception being 2006, when trade between the two countries was almost in balance—Estonian export was carried by the electronics sector. Trade between Estonia and China grew from €626 million (in 2014) to €814 million (in 2017). From 2018, the turnover began falling, by 4% in 2018, and by 8% in 2019. Trade between Estonia and China stood at €720 million in 2019 (2.4% of Estonia's overall trade, making China Estonia's 11th trade partner).

Exports fell by 15% in 2018 and by 7% in 2019. The share of the Chinese market in total exports in 2019 was 1.2%, making China Estonia's 16th export partner. The share of goods of Estonian origin in exports to China stood at 84%. The following commodity groups contributed most to the decline of exports: medical and measuring equipment (down by €9 million compared to 2018), timber products (down by €7 million), while exports of animal products increased (by €4.3 million).

In 2019, imports from China also fell (by 8%), which is an overall decrease in the import of the machines and equipment commodity group. China remains the 9th import partner of Estonia with a 3.4% share.

Machinery and equipment make up the largest share of exports to China (40% of exports in 2019). The main products in this commodity group are communications equipment, centrifuges, electrical transformers static converters and equipment for handling soil etc. Ranking second among main articles of export was timber and timber products with a 22% share. Main timber products included wood sawn or chipped lengthwise and sliced wood, wood in the rough, builders' joinery and carpentry and veneer sheets. Exports also included medical and measuring equipment (oscilloscopes, medical, surgery and other equipment, orthopaedic appliances, hydrometers etc.) (11%) and animal products (whey, fish products) (7%).
Exports from China mainly consist of machinery and equipment with a 52% share of imports in 2019. Top-ranking products in this commodity group are as follows: communications equipment, instruments for use in the hand, printed circuits, transformers and static converters. metals and metal products ranked second (11%), followed by textile products (10%) and other industrial products (8%).
According to the Credit Info database, 171 Estonian companies were exporting to China in 2018, most notably Eesti Post, Ericsson Eesti, Toftan, NPM Silmet, Scanfil, Norma, Enics Eesti, PKC Eesti, Lemeks, Trafotek, Airest.

The export of services has increased from €29 million (2015) to €56 million (2018), which is only 0.8% of all exports of services. The import of services from China in 2018 stood at a volume of €88 million (1.9% of total import of services) (as compared to €63 million in 2015).

Trade between Estonia and China 2015-2019 (in millions of euros)

Year

Exports

Imports

2015

135.3

519.53

2016

167.7

556.0

2017

218.2

595.5

2018

184.6

594.5

2019

169.4

548.3

Source: Statistics Estonia 

INVESTMENTS


As of 2019, Chinese direct investments in Estonia totalled €27 million, i.e. 0.1% of all direct investments in Estonia. The most notable sector was the manufacturing industry (49% of China's direct investments). As of September 2019, 191 companies with Chinese participation were registered in Estonia.

TOURISM


According to the foreign travel statistics of Eesti Pank, Chinese residents made nearly 54 000 visits to Estonia in 2019 (a 25% rise compared to 2018), 60% of which were multiple day visits (the average length of the visit was 2.9 days). 

The number of visits by tourists from Asia has increased each year and their share of the total number of tourists in 2019 stood at 4.5%. The largest number of tourists arrive in Estonia from Japan (1.3%), however, the number of tourists from China has grown rapidly, standing at 26 500 in 2019 (a 30% increase compared to 2018). The share of Chinese tourists stood at 1.2% of the overall number of tourists (and 25% of tourists from Asia). As other more distant regions, tourism from China is quite Tallinn-centered. Other popular regions were the counties of Pärnumaa and Tartumaa.

On average, Estonian residents make around 5000 visits a year to China, and most of them are multi-day visits, and 6 days were spent in China on average in 2019.

Co-operation in culture, science and education

Cultural co-operation between Estonia and China has been successful. The agreement on cultural, educational and scientific co-operation between the two countries entered into force on 3 September 1993, and since 1998 there have been 2-year implementation plans concluded in order to carry out the agreement. However, Estonia-China cultural exchange extends beyond agreements: Chinese restaurants are gaining popularity in Estonia, and there are also organisations that bring together people interested in Chinese culture and heritage.

Chinese dance troupes and music groups have performed in Estonia. Chinese art exhibitions have also been held in Estonia. Chinese films have featured at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. Working together as partner cities, Tallinn and Helsinki have for many years in a row simultaneously held cultural programmes related to the celebration of the Chinese New Year. In March 2010, Chinese Film Days were held in Tallinn, and in October 2010, an Estonian Film Festival was held in Shanghai. In June 2013, the philharmonic orchestra of Hangzhou - a twin city of Tallinn - gave a concert at the Estonia Theatre. The following August, Estonian Television's Childrens Music Studio participated in a concert tour of China as a part of the World Peace Choir. 

In April of 2014, top pianist Yundi Li held a concert in Tallinn; in the framework of Baltic music events in China (the organiser of the Estonian side was Eesti Kontsert), a number of Estonian ensembles and conductors, including the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Arsis Handbell Ensemble, cello quartet C-Jam, pianist Rein Rannap and others performed in the autumn of 2014. In the first half of 2015, the popular international production The Grand Chinese New Year Concert was performed in Tallinn and a few other Estonian cities on the occasion of Chinese New Year and the China National Peking Opera Company performed at the ORIENT Festival. In April 2016, and Estonian Culture Week was held in China, and in October, the Estonian Dream Big Band was in Beijing and at the Jazz Festival in Shanghai, and Estonian films were shown during the EU Film Festival. 

In September 2017, the opera choir of the Vanemuine Theatre took part in the production of Aida by the Shanghai Grand Theatre and at the end of the year, the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (ERSO), the Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. In July 2018, the Shanghai Opera visited Saaremaa. In March, ERSO and the Estonian National Male Choir (RAM) performed in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong). In the autumn of 2018, Ivari Ilja performed in China, giving a total of eight concerts on the Estonia piano (Shanghai, Beijing, Baotou, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Wenzhou, Dalian) and masterclasses. The Tallinn Boys' Choir (conducted by Lydia Rahula) performed at the Shanghai International Arts Festival between 28 October and 4 November 2018 with nine concerts. Cooperation with the Shanghai International Arts Festival continues (in 2017, Eesti Kontsert signed a cooperation agreement for the period 2018-2020, which will be extended). It is the largest and most significant festival in China. 

As part of the scientific cooperation between the two countries, the Estonian and Chinese Academies of Science signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Scientific Cooperation in May of 2000. The memorandum was signed by the respective presidents of the academies, Jüri Engelbrecht and academician Lu Yongxiang. 

In August 2018, the first nationwide Robotex event was held in Shanghai, initiated by Estonians, and it proved so successful that a year a later, a major event for the entire region of Asia, Robotex Asia, was organised, with teams from various countries. A total of 3280 competitors from 10 countries took part and the best later attended the Robotex event in Tallinn. 

The bilateral movement of students has increased. More and more Estonian university students are continuing their education in Chinese universities and since China's interest in student exchange has increased, opportunities for scholarships have improved. Thanks to these scholarships, each year since 1994 it has been possible for an Estonian student to study Chinese in China. In Estonia, Chinese language and culture can be studied only at Tallinn University. In September of 2010, the Confucius Institute was opened at Tallinn University.

Every year more and more Chinese university students find their way to Estonian universities. Chinese students’ interest in studying in Estonia has recently held steady and around a hundred students from China study in Estonia. Estonian is taught at the Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) and the Beijing International Studies Institute (BISU). Estonian is also taught in the upper secondary school operating under the aegis of BISU.   

In the 2018/2019 academic year, Asian languages taught in general education schools in Estonia comprised Chinese, Japanese and Korean. (The data only shows foreign language subjects. The statistics do not cover additional elective courses that could include languages and culture.)  

216 students are learning Chinese, most of them at the Kuressaare Upper Secondary School (165) and the Tallinn Central Russian Upper Secondary School (33). Students have chosen Chinese as the second compulsory foreign language and as the third (i.e. optional) foreign language.

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