|President Xi Jinping welcomes Queen Margrethe II of Denmark outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday.(China Daily/Wu Zhiyi)|
'Long-standing friend' impressed by nation's rapid development
With her second visit to China on Thursday, Danish Queen Margrethe II set aside her country's custom that the monarch visits a foreign country only once during a reign.
Observers said the rare occasion - which included the largest delegation in Danish history ever to travel on a state visit - reveals China's economic and cultural attraction.
President Xi Jinping traced his links to his guest to the last generation, when his father Xi Zhongxun and his mother received the queen in Guangzhou in 1979.
The elder Xi was then leading Guangdong province, the pilot for China's reform and opening-up that started in late 1978.
"Your Majesty is a long-standing friend of the Chinese people. And for many decades, you have shown care and support for the growth of China's relations with Denmark," Xi told the queen during their talks at the Great Hall of the People.
"As the first head of state from a Western country to visit China since China adopted the policy of reform and opening-up, your visit in 1979 went a long way toward further strengthening the China-Denmark relationship."
It has been a tradition in Denmark that monarchs visit a country only once, so that diplomatic ties can be developed with as many countries as possible.
The 74-year-old queen, who ascended to the throne in 1972, has only made multiple visits to Denmark's neighbors having special cultural and political relations such as Norway and Sweden.
"During all these years I heard from my husband, both of my sons and many other people about how much is happening in China," the queen told Xi.
"It's really wonderful to see, even though I've only been here for a few hours, how much it has developed, how enormous Beijing has become and how impressive the city is."
Dressed in a red dress covered by a sky-blue wind coat, the silver-haired queen was in high spirits when Xi welcomed her with a 21-gun salute in the square outside the Great Hall of the People. She smiled to every soldier she reviewed and waved to the capering primary school students who welcomed her with flowers.
The two leaders later witnessed the signing of 10 cooperative documents in fields including green technology and tourism.
"It is very rare to see the Danish queen bringing entrepreneurs from 110 companies on the visit, as the queen does not often deal with detailed issues at home," said Cui Hongjian, head of European studies with the China Institute of International Studies.
The queen also brought four ministers. She usually takes just the foreign minister on overseas visits.
"From that we can tell how much the Chinese market attracts Denmark," Cui said.
He said the two economies are highly complementary and that Denmark's advantages in agriculture, medicine, precision instruments and environmental protection can greatly benefit China.
He added that the visit is based on a solid relationship between Beijing and Copenhagen, noting that as early as in the 1950s, Denmark supported Beijing in taking back its seat at the United Nations from Taipei - two decades ahead of the fact.
Chinese Ambassador to Denmark Liu Biwei said Denmark established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China in 1950, making it the second Western country to do so after Sweden.
Denmark is the only country in northern Europe to enjoy a comprehensive strategic partnership with China, considered the highest level in Beijing's ties with other nations.
Two-way trade volume surpassed $123 billion in 2013.
Wang Fan, a professor of global politics at China Foreign Affairs University, said good relations with Copenhagen also help connect Beijing with the European Union.
The five-day visit will take the queen to Shanghai, Nanjing, Suzhou and Jiaxing.
A highlight will be a visit to the museum of the Nanjing Massacre. More than 300,000 Chinese citizens were killed by Japanese invaders during 40 days beginning on Dec 13, 1937.