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Chinese president arrives in Czech Republic for state visit
It is the first state visit by a Chinese president in 67 years since the two countries established diplomatic ties, which is also Xi's maiden visit to the CEE region since he assumed presidency in 2013 and his first trip to Europe this year.
HAILING BILATERAL TIES
The Czech Republic sent two fighter jets to escort Xi's plane when it entered the country's airspace. Xi was received by Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek and other senior officials at the airport.
Hailing the long-held friendship between the two countries, Xi, in his written remarks upon arrival, extended sincere greetings and best wishes to the Czech people.
Noting that the Czech Republic has become an important partner for China in the CEE region and a good friend in the European Union (EU), Xi said that bilateral ties are currently advancing on a fast track with vigorous cooperation in various sectors.
The two countries have launched sound cooperation under the framework of China-CEE cooperation, which is playing a crucial role in promoting China-Europe ties, he said.
The Chinese president said he looks forward to widely engaging with Czech President Milos Zeman and other Czech leaders and exchanging views with them in an in-depth way, so as to deepen the traditional friendship between the two peoples, strengthen the political mutual trust and expand practical cooperation between the two countries.
It is believed that the China-Czech relations have been ushered into "the best time in history."
Xi and Zeman met four times in two years. Following his state visit to China in October 2014, Zeman came to Beijing in September 2015 to attend the commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.
During his stay, Xi will hold talks with Zeman and meet Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Senate Chairman Milan Stech, Chamber of Deputies Chairman Jan Hamacek and Prague Mayor Adriana Krnacova.
"This is an opportune time for the development of the China-Czech relations. I look forward to working with Czech leaders to further enhance bilateral relations and push for new progress in '16+1' cooperation and China-EU relations," Xi said in his signed article published on the Pravo Daily ahead of his state visit.
So far, China is the Czech Republic's largest trading partner outside the EU, while the Czech Republic has been China's second largest trading partner in Central and Eastern Europe for many years in a row.
Situated at the heartland of Europe, the Czech Republic enjoys advantageous location and strong industrial foundation. Beijing and Prague have huge cooperation potential in manufacturing, nuclear power and infrastructure construction.
EYEING FURTHER COOPERATION
During Xi's visit, the two countries will sign a number of cooperative agreements covering economy and trade, infrastructure, finance, health care, aviation, science and technology, and culture.
China's "Belt and Road Initiative" has presented unprecedented opportunities for the cooperation between the two nations, helping synergize their development strategies.
Beijing and Prague signed an intergovernmental MOU on jointly building the "Belt and Road Initiative" in November 2015. In the same year, a traditional Chinese medicine research center was inaugurated in the Czech Republic and a direct flight opened between Beijing and Prague.
The steady development of the China-Czech ties is in accordance with the strong cooperation momentum between China and the CEE region. All 16 CEE countries are along the route of the "Belt and Road."
Major cooperation projects between China and the CEE countries are moving ahead steadily. The Belgrade bridge over the Danube has been completed and opened to traffic. China will also make every effort to advance the flagship project of the Budapest-Belgrade railway.
Xi is also expected to raise proposals for the "16+1" cooperation during his stay in Prague, further directing the strategic China-CEE engagement.
After visiting the Czech Republic, Xi will fly to Washington D.C. to attend the fourth Nuclear Security Summit, to be held from March 31 to April 1.