Hundreds of people took to the streets to protest against China’s stance on human rights and democracy as Heinz Fischer welcomed Hu Jintao at Hofburg Palace in Vienna this morning (Mon).
The Austrian president discussed economic issues with his Chinese counterpart as they met for the first time since Fischer went on a state visit to the Asian country in January 2010. A delegation of 180 Austrian businesspeople and politicians accompanied the president to China at that time.
Fischer and Hu signed contracts and declarations of intent featuring agreements over an intensified partnership between Austria and China regarding economy, trade, science and culture today. Hu met with Social Democratic (SPÖ) Labour Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer after arriving in Austria yesterday. He will hold talks with SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann and the party’s president of the federal parliament, Barbara Prammer, before some paying a sightseeing visit to Salzburg tomorrow.
State-owned Chinese newspapers reported Hu’s visit would certainly help the economic relations between the Asian superpower and the small European country to climb to “new heights”, while hundreds gathered at various locations all over Vienna to show their support for a free Tibet. The protesters appealed to the Chinese leader to end the occupation of the country.
Austrian papers expect the alpine country’s political elite to address human rights issues in Tibet and China itself “with all diplomatic prudence” to avoid angering Hu – and possibly endanger the growing economic ties between the two countries. Experts see great chances for Austrian companies specialising in environment technology to benefit from the booming Chinese economy.
The number of Austrian enterprises with representations in China is increasing. The value of Austrian exports to the country has been on the rise as well in the past few years. Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner said at the end of Expo 2010 which took place in Shanghai between May and November of last year: “We want to double the value of our exports to China in the long run.”
The minister also announced that he was “convinced” that the many newly created business contacts between Chinese entrepreneurs and Austrian businesspeople at the alpine country’s Expo pavilion would lead to an “export boom” to “one of the best future markets”.
Around 3.2 million people visited the Austrian pavilion called “Aodili”, which is Chinese for “Austria”, during the event. Austria poured around 16 million Euros into the creation of its pavilion. The endeavour was supervised by Hannes Androsch. The industrialist said today that the 21st century “may become a Chinese century.”
Androsch told Austrian newspaper Die Presse that European leaders should consider the fast economic growth China was currently experiencing as a wake-up call. The ex-SPÖ finance minister appealed to European lawmakers to spend more on education and research. He said: “I wonder what will happen if we cannot deliver anything to China anymore because the Chinese are able to manufacture innovative products themselves. (…) How are we going to finance our ‘wonderful’ health and welfare system in that case?”
Asked by Die Presse to name the Asian giant’s most urgent problems, Androsch said: “There are around 200 million migrant workers in China at the moment. (…) Many of these young people are still badly educated. Some studies suggest that another 300 million will become migrant workers in China – which would resemble the population of the European Union (EU). China will have to prove being able to cope with such a development.”
The former SPÖ vice chancellor – who holds a stake of 21.5 per cent in leading circuit board maker AT&S – added: “China’s leaders know much more about the country’s problems than we do, of course. (…) We should not worry about how China manages its growth but rather think about how Europe is evolving.”