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Xi’s Czech visit to send diplomatic messages

(People's Daily Online)    01:31, March 26, 2016

File photo: Night scenery of Prague, capital of Czech

Chinese President Xi Jinping is about to pay his first state visit to the Czech Republic since the two countries established diplomatic ties 67 years ago. Scholars believe the trip will send four messages.

To begin with, the visit will reaffirm Europe’s status as a diplomatic priority for China. Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Haixing also described the visit as “a major diplomatic event” in China-Europe ties at a briefing on Thursday.

Over the last three years, Xi has set foot in several European countries. In March 2014, Xi traveled to the Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium and visited the EU headquarters. Last October, the Chinese president paid a state visit to the UK. After his Czech visit, Xi will have covered both the “new” and “old” Europe in diplomacy.

The second message is that China values the unique role of the Czech Republic in advancing China-EU relations.

As an important Central and Eastern European (CEE) country, the Czech Republic is also a member of the EU. This dual identity endows the country with broad influence in both circles.

During Xi’s visit, China and the Czech Republic are scheduled to ink cooperation agreements worth more than $6 billion, covering a wide range of areas including trade, economy, infrastructure, finance, healthcare, aviation and technology.

Meanwhile, China and European countries will have more opportunities from the implementation of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

The initiative has been echoed by many CEE countries, and they have worked to dock their development strategies with the Belt and Road initiative.

At the end of last year, heads of China and Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC) released a mid-term plan on bilateral cooperation, indicating that the China-CEEC collaboration has grown into a new highlight of China-Europe ties and a “testing ground” of the initiative.

Sources disclosed that during this visit, Xi will discuss the Belt and Road construction with Czech leaders and propose cooperation plans between China and CEE countries.

Moreover, European countries will benefit from opportunities brought by China’s rapid development. As China undergoes industrial upgrade, a spate of new ideas has been put forward. European nations are also paying more attention to China to see how they can benefit from the development of the world’s second-largest economy.

“Economically unstable, Europe is struggling for recovery. Therefore it has a strong need of the Chinese market and investment,” Cui Hongjian, head of the Institute of European Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Science, pointed out.

“What needs to be pointed out is that this kind of opportunity is reciprocal. Through cooperation with Europe, China can also boost domestic economy and upgrade industrial structure,” Cui added. 

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