The number of Chinese travelling to Sweden dipped in 2018 amid a year of turbulent bilateral ties, but economic relations continue to grow on the whole, according to official data.
Beijing issued a travel advisory for the northern European nation in autumn last year warning citizens of "the security situation in Sweden". It expired in June, but the embassy has continued to blast Swedish media coverage of China.
According to Sweden's foreign ministry, the number of Chinese citizens applying for visas to Sweden has grown steadily in recent years - from 55,822 in 2015 to 97,732 in 2017. But last year the number was slightly down, to 94,987.
China's embassy in Stockholm issued the first three-month travel advisory in September, citing a lack of police response to thefts from Chinese tourists.
It followed an incident on September 2, when a family of Chinese travellers was removed from a hotel in Stockholm by police after they arrived a day early and were denied lodging. The embassy said the local police had violated "the basic human rights of Chinese citizens", and Beijing issued a travel advisory for the country on September 23.
The travel warning was extended in December, and again in March, and both times Beijing said police had failed to respond to the risks facing Chinese tourists. In March, the embassy said it had received 50 reports of theft from Chinese tourists in three months, and that "Swedish police had not notified (the embassy it was) investigating any case". The travel advisory expired on June 21.
Sweden and China have been at odds over a range of issues, from Beijing's treatment of Uygur Muslims in its western Xinjiang region - where at least 1 million people are estimated to be held in internment camps - to the detention of Chinese-born Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai. Stockholm has objected to China's treatment of Gui since he was first detained by mainland Chinese authorities in 2015, and demanded his release, which has angered Beijing.
But economic relations remain strong despite the tensions over human rights issues in recent years.
Bilateral trade hit US$17.15 billion last year, a 15 per cent rise from 2017, Chinese embassy figures showed. Trade with Sweden is small compared to the country's other European partners like Germany, where bilateral trade with China was about US$220 billion last year, but far larger than that with Greece at US$7 billion in 2018.
Chinese investment in Sweden has also increased, going from US$1.5 billion in 2017 to US$4.5 billion last year, according to data from Rhodium Group.
Meanwhile, although the travel advisory has now expired, Beijing's embassy in Sweden has continued a campaign criticising what it calls biased views of China in the Swedish press.
The embassy released 57 statements critical of views expressed about China in the Swedish media, by politicians and others, from January 2018 to May this year, according to a study by the Swedish Institute of International Affairs.
Those statements continue to be released. The latest was on Saturday, with the Chinese embassy blasting an article published in Swedish newspaper NorrlAndska Socialdemokraten, saying it made "absurd claims" about China's treatment of Gui, and the camps in Xinjiang where Uygurs are held.
"We hope that Swedish friends from various sectors will not buy into lies, and proceed from the fundamental interests of the people of China and Sweden to jointly maintain the larger friendly cooperation between our two sides," the statement read.
Viking Bohman, an analyst at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, said while the travel alert may have been an attempt to apply economic pressure on Sweden, the health of their trade ties showed nations could disagree with China and still do business.
"At the same time, it's important to remember that in addition to being an important economic partner to European countries, China is an influential voice in many areas of global governance," he said. "This may contribute to a reluctance to upset China, as it could lead to a number of foreign policy problems."
Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.Artikel Asli