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King Harald and Queen Sonja’s first day in Beijing

After several days in western China, the Norwegian King and Queen arrived in Beijing late Saturday evening. This is another stop on their nine-day state visit to China. Sunday marked the first day of engagements in the east-Asian country.

Their Majesties were solemnly greeted by a Chinese guard of honour on their arrival. The honour guard, from China’s giant army, the People’s Liberation Army, was present. The same were representatives of the Chinese government and Chinese children with flowers. The royal couple has already spent two days in Dunhuang, in west China. On the first day, they visited a kindergarten; the other day they visited the famous Mogao caves.

In Beijing, Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide and Minister of Industry Torbjørn Røe Isaksen will join the King and Queen. Together, they will meet President Xi Jinping in the government buildings, the People’s Great Hall, which is one of the highlights of the state visit.

In Beijing, the royals will also meet a large business delegation numbering more than 300 people, and several agreements will be signed in the Chinese capital this week. Despite the tight programme, the 80-year-old King and Queen are doing well. “We are doing well”, said King Harald to the Norwegian press. “At least for now,” said Queen Sonja with a smile.

China has long been interested in the Norwegian welfare system, and Chinese authorities and researchers have looked into whether a Norwegian welfare system can be implemented in China. “Access to free school and generous financial support for higher education students, regardless of gender and family background, is absolutely necessary,” said the King in a speech he held on Sunday.

“Our countries have a different history and culture, but one of the things that makes our countries good and gathering is the ambition to create a welfare system for all. In this process, we want to learn from each other,” said the King at a seminar for community scientists, organised by NUPI in collaboration with the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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“Equality is a key factor for prosperity. Recognising that men and women have equal rights and secure equal opportunities are essential to creating an inclusive and just society. In Norway, we have developed a generous system for maternity leave and kindergartens. In fact, we have found that the value of women’s participation in the workforce is as big as the income from the oil resources. I understand that China has a similar level of female participation in working life,” said His Majesty.

His Majesty also praised China for raising hundreds of millions of residents out of poverty in recent decades, showing the UN’s sustainability goals. “The grips China has taken has been crucial. No other country has contributed more to goal number one: eradicate poverty in all its forms everywhere, “said King Harald.

On Monday, the visit to Beijing continues when Their Majesties will, among many things, attend a lunch and a seminar. From Beijing, the trip goes on to Shanghai later this week. Keep following Royal Central for the latest news on the state visit.

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