BEIJING, Jan. 21 -- Chinese President Xi Jinping would attend the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in Russia at President Vladimir Putin's invitation, China's Foreign Ministry said Monday.
This will be Xi's first foreign trip in 2014 and the first attendance by a Chinese president at a major overseas sports event, demonstrating China's strong support for the Olympics and Russia's effort to host the games.
It also underscores the importance China attaches to the development of Sino-Russia ties.
SIGNIFICANT SUPPORT FOR OLYMPICS
"President Xi's attendance shows to the world China's belief in promoting the development of the Olympics and China's aspiration for a peaceful and beautiful world," said Huang Yaling, secretary general of the China Sport Science Society.
China hosted the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2008 and the Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010, leaving a valuable legacy for the development of world sports.
Experts say there are four reasons why Chinese leaders attach great importance to the Olympic Games.
First, the Olympic Games are conducive to improving the health of people in all countries while promoting the development of their society. It can also facilitate China's efforts to become a moderately prosperous society.
Second, the Olympic motto, "Faster, Higher, Stronger," matches the principle China has followed in its more than 30 years of reform and opening-up and should be carried forward on the road to realizing the Chinese Dream.
Third, the Olympic spirit of "solidarity, friendship and peace" is helpful in strengthening communication, understanding and cooperation among people all over the world.
Forth, Xi's attendance will not only promote cooperation between China and the International Olympic Committee and other countries in the Olympic field, but serve as a great inspiration to China's athletes.
PROMOTION FOR CHINA-RUSSIA RELATIONS
During his stay in Sochi, Xi will hold talks with Putin on bilateral ties.
Liu Guchang, China's former ambassador to Moscow, told Xinhua that Xi's visit would lay a solid foundation and develop sound strategies for the future development of China-Russia relation.
"The visit will help the two leaders develop a closer personal friendship and work relationship, which are irreplaceable for the development of bilateral ties," Liu said.
The year of 2013 witnessed profound progress in the development of China-Russia ties. Last March, Xi chose Russia as the first stop of his maiden foreign trip as president and became the first foreign head of state to visit the Russian Ministry of Defense.
"Xi's visit tells the world that the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership of China and Russia is still developing in an all-round manner, and China has high expectations for the future of bilateral ties," said Xing Guangcheng, an expert on Russia in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Ruan Zongze, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, said: "Putin attended the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and showed his support for China. So this time, President Xi will attend the opening ceremony in Sochi and show his support for Russia."
INNOVATIVE PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
As the first visit by a Chinese president to a major sports event abroad, Xi's trip to Sochi is another diplomatic innovation by the Chinese new leadership.
Chinese leaders are paying increasing attention to public diplomacy, public opinion and direct communication with people in other countries. Experts say this fits with the development of the modern world.
"Nowadays, some countries are worried about China. That is because they do not have enough understanding of us. The participation of Chinese leaders in public diplomacy will help China play a bigger role in the international community," Ruan said.
Overall, Xi's attendance at the Sochi Olympics will help China further burnish its image as a peacefully developing country, and the world to better understand China in a more comprehensive way.