There’s been a lot of discourse about President Xi’s stopover in Helsinki on his way to the United States. I’m not sure if many people realise what kinds of doors this seemingly simple act of courtesy is opening. The Chinese, especially ones holding significant power, seldom decide to do something just for sport. I am very proud of my country to have such a diplomatic presidential couple, who immediately understood the significance of this outreach, and welcomed their counterparts with appropriate tact. It pays to turn our attention to China, at least for economic, political and scientific reasons, instead of following Trump’s antics from the sidelines. (Although you can’t really blame ordinary blue-collar Americans. I don’t believe people voted for him because they liked him. Trump is not in debt to the system, as he is a maverick. They voted to protest, to choose the lesser of two evils. To many of them, Hillary Clinton represents a corrupt and outdated system, no matter what or how good her personal values are.)
This visit, to quote Bloomberg’s article, “comes amid U.S. retrenchment and Chinese pro-EU signals” (source: https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-04-03/xi-s-nordic-stopover-on-way-to-trump-reveals-global-trade-shift). In my opinion (!) there is a reason that China is reaching out particularly to the EU, and particularly to Finland. They could have chosen Germany, one of Europe’s scientific, political and economical centres, and they didn’t. The fact that a superpower which has been closed in the past deliberately chooses to reach out its hand to the European Union in the wake of Brexit, is saying something big. I have to give credit to Finland as well, with our foreign minister visiting Beijing in March — this has certainly had an effect on the course of events. Of course, there are things that are working here in China and things that are not, such as environmental protection (yet! Beijing is actually closing down several steel factories in the near future because of reported health problems by the people, according to several local news agencies. I, and many of my Chinese friends, hope to see this as a continuous trend. Also, human rights were brought up in the countries’ agenda by the Finns. Xi is open towards this. This is a huge feat — equivalent to being able to discuss human rights with the Russian government). A nice detail to observe are the Presidents’ respective blue and red ties. It is very uncommon for a Chinese person to wear Finnish (!) blue at official events, let alone the President of PRC, as it is for our President to wear a Chinese (!) red tie. It seems like they might have switched ties. A subtle act like this shows the respect they for each other.
With Google and Facebook difficult to access, it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want another superpower, who is in control of these data engines, to have and give total control of your subjects’ personal information like we willingly do in Europe. There are always two sides to a coin — censorship from a Western point of view, protection from an Eastern point of view. Censorship would come into question if China didn’t have any equivalent non-privately-owned engines available, which they do. It is possible to access the same information as in the West, but the data is encrypted differently. What is interesting is that even though there are dozens of search engines available in Europe as well, we deliberately favour Google, which unlike many of the other engines is storing all our personal data. The Chinese are not blind to opportunities (or threats), and we shouldn’t be either.