The sayings about Finland's open and equal society have always sounded a bit cliché. But the victory in the "societal happiness" competition went beyond my understanding even after the first year spent in Finland. Yes, of course, people in Finland are open to talk, incredibly frank and direct in conversation. They acknowledge differences with great respect, but the happiest people in the world? With only a few hours of light in winter? With all the seriousness and distance in social relations?
It comes again the golden season of the year. The Chinese people have just celebrated the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival, and will soon embrace the 73rd National Day on 1st October.
Since its founding in 1949, the People’s Republic of China has made remarkable development achievements in various social domains. A moderately prosperous society in all respects has been built.
During the past summer we have been served news of extreme drought, vast forest fires and massive floods in different parts of the world. All the while, updates from the war in Ukraine have nevertheless dominated the headlines. A year earlier many would most likely have said that the covid-19 pandemic was the biggest catastrophe of our time.
If one widens the perspective, into the future and the past, it is hardly meaningful to start ranking catastrophes.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine more than 6 months ago has caused a dramatic spike in natural gas prices and caused repeated energy shocks in Europe. The EU has accused Moscow of using energy as a weapon, while Russia denies this and blames western sanctions for the drop in exports.
After Russian state-owned company Gazprom announced a three-day shutdown of North Stream Pipeline 1, natural gas futures linked to TTF, Europe's wholesale gas price, increased sharply to EUR340 per megawatt hour due to supply fears.
Another video of our young prime minister partying wildly has been circulating online for the last couple of days. The Finnish media reported that the clips have been filmed on Saturday night the 6th of August in two different apartments and were posted as a story on a private Instagram account believed to belong to photographer Janita Autio who was partying with the prime minister herself and shot some of the footage. The crowd in the background yell “Jauhojengi” roughly translated meaning “powder gang,” which some said could refer to cocaine or amphetamine in Helsinki street slang.
Are the two separate agreements signed in Istanbul last Friday by Russia and Ukraine with the United Nations and Turkey that pave the way for the export of 22 million of Ukrainian grain which remained blockaded in three Black Sea ports, as well as the export of Russian grain and fertilizer, really a "beacon of hope" for millions of starving people, or just an illusory dream?
"We’ve laid out for the leadership of Iran what we’re willing to accept in order to get back into the JCPOA" US president Joe Biden said at a press conference in Jerusalem on July 14. "We’re waiting for their response. When that will come, I’m not certain, but we’re not going to wait forever."
"The decisions we have taken in Madrid," North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said as a summit of the alliance's members closed in Madrid on June 30, "will ensure that our Alliance continues to preserve peace, prevent conflict, and protect our people and our values."
At the end of May, I came to Helsinki as the 20th Ambassador of China to Finland. At the moment I arrived, I was deeply impressed by the beautiful scenery of Helsinki and the Finns’ honest and hospitality immediately. Later I called on the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and presented the Letter of Credence to President Sauli Niinistö on 2 June.
Many people, both at home and abroad, have wondered about the easy and unbothered way in which Finland has left its military non-alignment policy behind. Nostalgia for the past seventy years, with its assertions of neutrality, politics of friendship, and bridge-building, is limited in a tense new world.