Switzerland publishes its first China Strategy

Local news, 23.03.2021

The Swiss Federal Council has adopted a strategy for China on 19 March. 

The Beijing National Stadium (Bird’s Nest)
The Beijing National Stadium (Bird’s Nest) ©Herzog & de Meuron

For the first time, the China Strategy takes the form of a public document that sets out the objectives and measures of Switzerland's China policy for the years 2021-2024. 

Why a China Strategy for Switzerland? 

  • As in many European countries, there is an intense public debate in Switzerland on the economic and geopolitical rise of China. Relations between Switzerland and China have steadily increased in intensity. China is now not only our third largest trade partner, but cooperation has reached practically all sectors of foreign policy. There is also a steady rise in the number of actors outside the government maintaining contact with China. These actors also shape policy on China in the broader sense (parliament, regional or local authorities, NGOs, economic actors, universities, etc.).
  • Geopolitical tensions between China and the US are rising, and the EU is increasingly assertive on the application of common rules. These rivalries constrain the scope of action in terms of international cooperation. Such dynamic is not in the interest of Switzerland. As a middle power with an export-oriented economy, Switzerland strongly supports an international liberal order based on the rule of law and strong multilateral organizations. 
  • Despite great opportunities, the number of controversial issues is on the rise [human rights, intellectual property, global security issues, technology, China’s role in multilateralism, investments, etc.]. This leads to a broader debate on the coherence of our foreign policy towards China.

The Swiss government thus recognized the need for more strategic coordination, including a regular exchange of information with cantons, business associations, academia and the civil society. 

The Strategy sets objectives and goals in the four thematic focus areas of Swiss foreign policy: Peace & Security (including human rights), Prosperity (e.g. commerce, research & innovation), Sustainability and Digitalization. Switzerland will seek targeted collaborations with Beijing. As much as possible, Switzerland will try to align Chinese and Western conceptions at the service of achieving common good. It is important in this regard to maintain the international liberal order and Switzerland will not hesitate to express criticism if the situation requires. 

It is not a goal to change the course of our policy towards China. Switzerland’s neutral, principles- and dialogue-based foreign policy continues to be the reference for our China policy. 

The China Strategy is available here (German, French and Italian version / English version will follow).