At the international Silk Road Forum in Beijing, the Austrian chancellor met Chinese leaders and signed several ambitious new bilateral treaties.
When China’s rulers call, the mighty come from far afield – as they did at the gathering China’s President Xi Jinping organized on April 26-28 to promote his country’s “Silk Road Initiative.” Among the invitees was Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who met afterwards with President Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang for a bilateral meeting.
“At the two-day international Silk Road Forum in Beijing, China clearly expressed its claim to shaping the world order,” said Kurz, according to the daily Kleine Zeitung. “The rules of the game are currently being partially rewritten…. Ignoring China would be absurd.”
Kurz and Prime Minister Li Keqiang have agreed on two major objectives according to reports in the daily Der Standard: Chinese tourism to Austria is to be doubled by 2025, and bilateral trade increased from €13 billion to €20 billion.
Five steps have been agreed to achieve these targets:
Better flight connections
Austrian Airlines (AUA) will continue to fly to Beijing and Shanghai from Vienna, while beginning June 18, China Southern Airlines will handle the route from Vienna via Ürümqi to Guangzhou. A third route to Chengdu has been covered by Hainan Airlines since October, 2018.
The Austrian National Tourist Office (Österreichische Werbung) will be increasingly active in China. The campaign is aimed primarily at private Chinese tourists who are interested in longer stays in Austria and in getting to know the whole country.
The tourism program will require stronger cooperation with the Chinese internet giants Alibaba and Tencent to coordinate payment systems, as Chinese tourists are accustomed to shopping on their mobile phones during their holidays.
Olympic Games 2022
Austrian companies with specific expertise have also offered support for the Winter Games to be held in Beijing in three years’ time – a clear business opportunity.
Joint export loans
Both countries want to jointly secure loans – in Austria, China, but also in third countries. The Austrian Kontrollbank and the Chinese Exim Bank are intended to make it easier for Chinese and Austrian companies to carry out joint projects abroad.
In addition to these targets, Kurz and Li have signed five “Memoranda of Understanding”. Among other things, they dealt with a cooperation between the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna (Art History Museum) and the Beijing Palace Museum, the loan of a male panda bear to the Schönbrunn Zoo and the repayment of money Austrian companies lost to fraudsters based in China. In total, the Chinese government is compensating damages amounting to €16 million.
A total of 37 heads of state and government from Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America took part in the Silk Road Summit. Leading politicians of the USA, India, Japan and the large EU states – with the exception of Italy – declined the invitation.