Relations between China and Switzerland entered a new era after the federal council of the European country announced what it called "a new strategy for China", developed with input from all levels of government, covering all types of interactions over the coming years.
A statement from Switzerland's Federal Department of Foreign Affairs noted the country was one of the first in Europe to recognize the People's Republic of China and there was "a 70-year history of close cooperation" between the states. Switzerland is an independent, nonaligned nation. Although the policy document was keen to stress this was a continuation of its relations with China, rather than a change in course, it noted: "China's role in the world has changed and the (United States) is no longer the only great power".
China is Switzerland's third-largest trading partner and its biggest in Asia. The new approach based on the Swiss document will strengthen those ties, acknowledge areas where there is common ground, and also fundamental differences between the two sides.
"Pioneering spirit and pragmatism, in addition to a strong stance in the defense of Swiss interests and values, have molded Switzerland's policy on China for 70 years," wrote Federal Councilor Ignazio Cassis. "They will continue to do so."
When Switzerland's Foreign Policy Strategy 2020-23 was published in 2020, cooperation with China was identified as a priority. The latest policy document picked out China's enthusiasm for and investment in areas such as environmental protection, education, finance and culture as fields in which it hoped to further strengthen ties.
Global problems, the policy document continued, demand global solutions.
"Switzerland is therefore also committed to constructive cooperation with China in international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization," it said.
"As a neutral state, Switzerland sees itself as a bridge-builder. It remains committed to upholding international law and rules-based multilateral cooperation," added Cassis.
'Baseless' claims rejected
But the Swiss document also has descriptions of China's political system, ethnic group policies and human rights that the Chinese said are "groundless".
Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry, said on Monday the groundless accusations go against facts and are not conducive to the healthy development of bilateral relations.
China's embassy in Switzerland said in a statement on Sunday "it is regrettable that the document has…put some 'malicious' labels on China, sending out wrong signals".
There are no systems in the world that are entirely the same with each other, the statement said.
"A country's people should have the say in whether a political system is the best for them. The Swiss side should get rid of its ideological prejudices and respect Chinese people's choice of development road and political system that they think are the best for them."