Beijing, 3 November 2003 Press release

"Giant pandas are a living token of Austrian-Chinese relations"


Ferrero-Waldner announces the inauguration of the Austrian Cultural Forum in Beijing, a public servants exchange programme and closer cooperation in the fields of education and tourism.

Beijing, 3 November 2003 – Within the framework of her working talks in Beijing today, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner congratulated China on the successful mission of the manned spacecraft Shenzhou V. "I watched the successful landing of the spaceship and astronaut YANG Liwei’s return to earth with great interest on TV. I believe that no other achievement could symbolise China’s rise quite as aptly," Ferrero-Waldner said.

Ferrero-Waldner extended her thanks to Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing for the loan of a pair of giant pandas to Schönbrunn Zoo on the occasion of its 250-year anniversary. "We Austrians consider this as a very special privilege. We know that quite a number of countries would like to have giant pandas, and we know that the Chinese government adopts very restrictive standards in selecting the host countries. The pandas have become a major attraction at Schönbrunn Zoo. They are a living token of our good relations," Ferrero-Waldner said.

Ferrero-Waldner and the Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing view the bilateral relations between Austria and China as very positive. A clear expression of these excellent relations is the active exchange of top-level visits, the past five years having witnessed five visits at the presidential and head of government levels: Jiang Zemin in 1999, Federal President Klestil and Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner in 2001, Prime Minister Zhu Rongji in 2002 and Vice Chancellor Riess-Passer in 2002. The present Vice President Zeng Qinghong and State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan in his former function of Foreign Minister visited Austria in July 2002. Ferrero-Waldner agreed with her Chinese counterpart that the extension of the consultation process should be continued at various levels (foreign and other ministries, deputy ministers, secretaries general and political directors).

In July this year, Austria and China signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" regarding cooperation in the field of further education and training for public servants. The agreement hinges on a three-year exchange programme within the framework of which two delegations of Chinese public servants will be coming to Austria every year. "China wants to draw on our experience in human resource development and public sector services reform. I believe that Austria has very solid public services and excellent public servants. I am convinced that the Chinese delegations of public servants will be able to benefit from our expertise," Ferrero-Waldner said.

Within the framework of her visit, Ferrero-Waldner also agreed to intensify Austria’s cooperation with China in the field of education. In cooperation with the Federal Institute for International Education Transfer, huge progress has been made in setting up a vocational school in Changchun. Moreover, agreements were made to expedite the development of other projects. Among others, hospital management training courses are to be taken up in Changchun and Shanghai, a university for tourism and a post-graduate executive MBA programme are to be set up in Qingdao and automotive technology projects are to be realised in Beijing, Tianjin and Canton.

Moreover, a Chinese-Austrian academy of music is to be realised in cooperation with Austrian academies of music and the University of Beijing. Ferrero-Waldner praised this as a "new quality of cooperation" and also supported the Chinese wish for cooperation in training and education in the field of tourism in Beijing, notably with a view to the Olympic Games in 2008. "The Chinese government considers a flourishing tourism industry of growing importance for the national economy and the increase in tourism has had positive effects on the Chinese employment situation and on other economic sectors like the banking, insurance and transport industries as it helps to boost demand. China is assuming that the tourism industry will grow at higher rates than the rest of the Chinese economy over the next decade. Therefore, China is thinking of opening up the tourism industry to foreign investments. I am therefore delighted that the Province of Salzburg is planning an exhibition entitled "China as a tourist destination". "I see huge opportunities for Austria in this area", Ferrero-Waldner said.

In the field of cultural cooperation, Ferrero-Waldner announced the inauguration of the Austrian Cultural Forum in Beijing in 2004 and expressed her pleasure that China intends to set up a cultural centre in Austria. "I welcome the increasing cultural and scientific exchange between our two states. Based on mutual recognition of the great cultural traditions of our two countries I am convinced that we will be able to deepen our already excellent relations in the fields of contemporary art and preservation of the cultural heritage. Thus together with the Foreign Ministry the State Secretariat for Art and Media is planning to bring the exhibition "Wild Painting – The new works of excellent painters from Austria" to Shanghai and other Chinese cities from 1 March to 15 April 2004," the Foreign Minister stated.