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President Xi aims to give Czech ties a boost

China Daily  10:50, March 29, 2016  

President Xi jinping meets Czech President Milos Zeman in Beijing on Sept 4, 2015. Yao Dawei / Xinhua

President Xi Jinping's historic visit to the Czech Republic, which starts on Monday, is expected to "renew and energize" bilateral ties, with more than 20 documents on cooperation due to be signed.

The 49-hour trip will be the first state visit by a Chinese president either to the Czech Republic or the former Czechoslovakia in 67 years — since the founding of the People's Republic of China.

Xi is scheduled to meet with Czech President Milos Zeman and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.

He will also witness the signing of cooperation documents, attend a news conference, talk with Czech Senate Chairman Milan Stech and Chamber of Deputies Chairman Jan Hamacek, and meet with businesspeople.

The Chinese delegation will meet with Zeman at the Lany chateau, west of Prague, where the two presidents will plant a tree, according to the Czech Presidential Office.

Xi will be the first foreign president to be welcomed at the chateau, the country residence of the Czech president.

In an article published in the Pravo daily on Saturday, Xi called for joint work "to renew and energize the development of China-Czech ties".

This would usher in a "bright new era" for cooperation between China and countries in Central and Eastern Europe and also for relations between China and the European Union, the article said.

"As people say in China, a tree can grow tall only when its roots are strong. China and the Czech Republic should consider upgrading the bilateral relationship in due course," Xi said in the article.

The release of a joint declaration on a strategic partnership is expected to be the main outcome of the visit. A number of documents on cooperation in investment, finance, aviation and healthcare are expected to be signed. Zeman has said that he expects Chinese investment of 45 billion crowns ($1.84 billion).

The Czech News Agency reported that the joint declaration will include enhancing cooperation on finance, including the Czech Republic's interest in becoming a center for Chinese financial institutions in the region.

Vaclav Klaus, a former president of the Czech Republic, said Xi's visit carries "historic meaning" and shows how seriously the two countries want to develop their relationship.

"Now it is up to us to keep closer ties with China," he said.

In an article published on its website early this month, Radio Prague said the Czech Republic is "looking to finally get a bigger slice of the Chinese investment cake after long lagging behind neighbors such as Poland and Hungary".

Ma Keqing, the Chinese ambassador to the Czech Republic, said Xi's visit has attracted a great deal of attention in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Europe.

The ambassador said China is willing to deepen financial cooperation, encourage the use of both nations' currencies in trade and investment, and hold talks on the feasibility of setting up a renminbi settlement mechanism in Prague.

China is the Czech Republic's second-biggest trading partner, next only to the European Union, while the Czech Republic is China's second-biggest trading partner in Central and Eastern Europe. The trade volume topped $11 billion last year.

In November, China and the Czech Republic signed a memorandum of understanding on jointly building the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. It was the first such document signed between China and a Central European country.

(Editor:Yao Chun,Bianji)