Relations between little Switzerland and big China are multifaceted. In the previous edition of “Swiss Review”, we shone a light on this complex, complicated dynamic. Recent geopolitical events now beg another awkward question: what is Switzerland’s stance on resource-rich Russia now that Ukraine has been invaded? A small country on the one hand, superpowers on the other. Our readers had plenty to say.
We very much welcome your comments on revue.ch. You can also share your opinions on the community discussion forum of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA). Popular discussion topics at the moment: > Health insurance for retired Swiss Abroad > The current situation in Ukraine > Specific administrative issues such as the Swiss pension system (AHV) and taxes
Switzerland and China – it’s complicated
A neutral Switzerland should treat all countries in the same way. You cannot make an exception for China. You can be neutral but still be critical and say what you think. Switzerland has yet to learn this. It needs to accept that neutrality comes at a price.
There are some missing links to your otherwise comprehensive article on Swiss-Chinese relations. For example: the fact that human rights have been viewed solely through a Western lens until now, where the focus is on individual rights and freedoms. The duties that arise from the family and group dynamic were brushed under the table in the 1940s after the demise of nationalism and fascism. We are paying the price for this. The societies around the world that have gained in influence are those that believe people have to fulfil their duties as citizens before they can have rights. We in the West need to take this into account if we want to navigate the 21st century successfully. China, for its part, will need to engage with the Western approach to rights and freedoms – the same rights and freedoms that are set to play an increasing role for China’s growing middle classes. In Western societies, the concept of duty-bound citizenship will always be afforded much less weight than it is in collective societies like China. But denying the concept altogether means we lack the bigger picture.
Swiss neutrality is an illusory concept because it depends on the war in question. The Federal Council pleads 'neutrality' on weapons deliveries to Ukraine, but the same government has no hesitation in exporting arms to Saudi Arabia, a country currently waging war in Yemen. Artillery for the Saudi oil sheikhs, but no protective vests for the Ukrainians. It seems that Switzerland is happy to apply double standards when doing so is conducive to its economic interests.
I doubt Switzerland can play the role of bridge between China and the West, unless Switzerland’s politicians can adopt a more objective view on China. Swiss politicians need to know that Western values are not universal. Traditional Chinese values have great influence on the Chinese people and the political thinking of the Chinese government. They carry much greater wisdom than Western values.
Essentially, state neutrality means to refrain from intervening in other countries’ problems. But neutrality does not mean simply looking on while other countries commit horrible crimes.
The Ukraine war shows that Switzerland is no longer neutral. Berne is well within its rights to respond in the way it has. But then it has to face the consequences and possibly take the economic hit. Switzerland treats China and Russia differently to how it treats the US. Why? The world is now divided into two diametrically opposed economic systems. I think the system favoured by Russia and China will end up in the ascendancy. But Switzerland has already made its decision! And it will have to live with its choice.
Europe’s naivety continues. China wants to become a global power, and Beijing couldn’t care less about what the Europeans think. The Russians are working to the same template but also being played by China. Ultimately, we will all depend on China.
In the previous edition of “Swiss Review”, we said that the Aabach was a small river in the canton of Lucerne that flowed into Lake Greifensee. However, the Aabach only runs through the canton of Zurich. Two attentive readers – one from Vuokatti in Finland, the other from Jestetten in Germany – pointed this out to us. We can allay their fears and confirm that the tectonic plates have not swapped Zurich for Lucerne. (MUL)