Switzerland and the People's Republic of China have maintained bilateral relations since 1950, and these have intensified in recent years, reflected among other things in the regularity of high-level visits by both sides. The two countries conduct dialogue on a wide variety of areas, including the environment, development cooperation, human rights, migration, education, science and finance.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–China
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
In 2007, Switzerland and China signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at intensifying high-level political consultations and deepening all aspects of bilateral relations. In addition to regular official contacts between Beijing and Bern, projects are carried out in partnership with various Swiss cantons and communes. At the civil society level, close, regular exchanges have been established by various experts, academic institutions and artistic groups.
During his visit to China in April 2016, President Johann N. Schneider-Ammann concluded an innovative strategic partnership with China. In addition, in April 2018 the two countries initiated the first round of their strategic dialogue.
Since 2010, China has been Switzerland's biggest trading partner in Asia and its third largest globally after the EU and the United States. A bilateral free trade agreement was signed in Beijing in 2013 and entered into force on 1 July 2014.
This agreement contains provisions on trade in goods and services, non-tariff barriers to trade, intellectual property protection, and sustainable trade and development.
Switzerland and China have been engaged in bilateral dialogue on intellectual property since 2007. The main points of contact for Switzerland are the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MofCom) and the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA).
In addition, a memorandum of understanding establishing financial dialogue between the Chinese central bank and the State Secretariat for International Financial Affairs was signed in Bern in May 2013.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Collaboration between Switzerland and China in education, research and innovation is supported and has flourished in recent years, making China an important partner in this regard.
Official dialogue in a number of areas allows for exchanges on topics of shared interest, facilitating and encouraging projects.
Swissnex offices in Shanghai and Guangzhou and at the Swiss embassy in Beijing provide active support for Swiss actors in education, research and innovation in the form of networking, advice, promotion and inspiration.
Chinese researchers are eligible to apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Promoting human rights is a constitutionally based objective of Switzerland's foreign policy. At the bilateral level, in addition to specific consultations in the areas of labour law and international law, China and Switzerland have been conducting in-depth human rights dialogue on an annual basis since 1991. As part of this dialogue, various projects are implemented and discussions are initiated on specific cases. The human rights dialogue includes the following themes:
- Criminal law, criminal procedure and the enforcement of sentences
- Minorities and religious freedom
- Human rights defenders
- Multilateral questions relating to human rights
Switzerland and China have significantly boosted their cultural relations in recent years. As part of this, a liaison office of Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council, was opened in Shanghai in 2010.
A bilateral agreement between China and Switzerland on the illicit import and export and repatriation of cultural property, signed in 2013, has contributed in no small way to this intensification of cultural exchanges.
A large number of cultural projects were organised in 2015 to mark the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In January 2017, a bilateral cultural agreement was signed. That same year was designated 'Switzerland-China Year of Tourism 2017'.
Swiss nationals in China
At the end of 2018, there were 3’353 Swiss citizens living in China (including Hong Kong).
History of bilateral relations
The first official contacts between the two countries were in 1906. A treaty of friendship signed in 1918 formalised relations between Switzerland and the Republic of China.
Switzerland recognised the People’s Republic of China on the 17th of January 1950, it was one of the first Western states to do so. Switzerland de facto ceased to recognise the Republic of China (Taiwan). At first contacts with the People’s Republic were infrequent due to the Cold War and internal political turbulences in China.
Since Deng Xiaoping launched the reform and open-door policy in 1979, bilateral relations have intensified considerably. In 2015 the two countries marked 65 years of diplomatic relations.