Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visits smallest nation on maiden trip to Europe

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 7:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 2:34pm

Earlier this week, China’s new foreign minister Wang Yi sidestepped Britain, Germany and Spain on his maiden trip to Europe. Instead, he visited San Marino, the continent’s smallest country after the Vatican.

Wang arrived in San Marino, the world’s oldest surviving sovereign state, on Monday from Italy’s capital Rome and stayed at the Grand Hotel San Marino for a night, before travelling on to France.

He met with the tiny republic’s two heads of state, the Captains Regent, perhaps the world’s only heads of state without English-language Wikipedia pages and his counterpart Pasquale Valentini.

This is the third visit by a Chinese foreign minister to the tiny state of 32,000 people, said Corrado Carattoni, a spokesperson for San Marino’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“It is proof of the close ties between the countries and that China values its friendship with all countries no matter their size or military strength,” he said. The republic has a troop force of about 400.

The two countries are negotiating a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement and have discussed future negotiations about a tourism agreement. They also discussed current attempts to reform the United Nations. San Marino is one of the members of the so-called Uniting for Consensus group of states, which opposes an unconditional permanent Security Council seat for Japan.

Carattoni said the visit was important for the landlocked country in the heart of Italy. “We are trying to internationalise our economy. At the moment, our economy depends almost entirely on Italy.”

He said he did not know of any Chinese living in the republic. “It must be a matter of single digits,” he said, recalling one Chinese restaurant in the territory. “But I haven’t been there for a while.”