Bilateral relations between Switzerland and China

Initial contacts between Switzerland and the Chinese Empire were established by traders and missionaries as long ago as the mid-17th century. Trading relations developed at a rapid pace in the second half of the 18th century, leading in 1912 to the opening of a Swiss trading agency in Shanghai. The first official contacts between the two countries were made in 1906. Relations between Switzerland and the Republic of China were codified in a treaty of friendship in 1918, a few years after the fall of the Qing dynasty.

Today the People's Republic is one of Switzerland's most important partners in Asia, as is evidenced by the visits paid to Switzerland by high-ranking Chinese figures and vice versa. The range of subjects on which contacts are maintained has become broader: politics, commerce, migration, science and technology, education, the environment, health, tourism, culture. The two countries have conducted a human-rights dialogue since 1991. China has been Switzerland's most important trading partner in Asia since 2002. Switzerland is one of the few Western countries to have a positive balance of trade with the People's Republic. Close contacts have also been established at the civil-society level - with local authorities, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and artists' groups.

(Source: Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong)

The Economy

The proportion of exports in Switzerland's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is high in international comparison. Since Switzerland's domestic market is small, its economy deals less in mass production than in the development and production of high-value individual items.

Strengths in the Provision of Services

The Swiss economy is mainly geared towards the provision of services. While in the 1960s half of all employees were still working in the industrial sector, at the beginning of the 21st century this proportion had sunk to around 25%. At the same time, the proportion of workers in the service sector grew from 39% to over 70%, while less than 4% gained their income from agriculture.

Exports to the EU

The most important exports, which go mainly to the European Union (EU), are:

  • Chemicals
  • Machinery
  • Precision Instruments
  • Clocks and Watches
  • Jewellery

The main services include:

  • Insurance
  • Banking
  • Commodities trading
  • Tourism

(Source: Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong)

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