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China, Czech Republic set example for broader region to advance Belt and Road Initiative

(Xinhua)    18:16, April 05, 2016

BEIJING, April 5 -- China and the Czech Republic, by upgrading their relations during a historic visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, has set an example for countries in the broader region to work with China to advance the Belt and Road Initiative.

Xi visited the Czech Republic from March 28 to March 30 in search of a partner to advance the Belt and Road Initiative and a pivot point to boost cooperation with Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and Europe as a whole.

The Czech Republic is known in China for its culture and bilateral cooperation has gained momentum in recent years. Some experts have described a process of the two countries "rediscovering each other as important cooperation partners."

The two countries elevated their relations to strategic partnership and signed a host of cooperation agreements as their presidents had good interactions, formal and informal.


Xi's visit, the first by a Chinese head of state to the Czech Republic in 67 years, is seen as an occasion for setting a clear political direction for the bilateral relations. It began with an informal meeting at the Czech president's summer residence and concluded with a beer-toasting farewell at a picturesque medieval library. They also planted a ginkgo together as a symbol of lasting friendship.

"A good personal rapport between leaders can have a positive impact on ties between nations," said Cui Hongjian, a senior research fellow on European studies at the China Institute of International Studies.

During Xi's visit, the two sides agreed to enhance cooperation in fields such as production capacity, finance, nuclear energy, e-commerce, telecommunications and environmental protection.

The two economies are complementary. A country of over 10 million people, the Czech Republic has an edge in many industries. Leaders said the two countries should also try to forge synergy between the "Made in China 2025" plan and the "Czech Industry 4.0."


Another important aspect of the enhanced cooperation lies in the position of the Czech Republic as an important country in Central and Eastern Europe and on the trade routes of the Belt and Road Initiative.

"I believe the visit of the president will not only produce important breakthroughs in the bilateral relations, but also lead the cooperation between China and the CEE countries with an example," said Zhao Junjie, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Xi proposed the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road in 2013 to boost regional development by increasing regional and international connectivity.

The trade routes run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and the developed European economic circle at the other.

The Central and Eastern Europe has a key role as it lies between both ends. China and the 16 countries in the region have been promoting cooperation under a framework known as "16+1."

Trade between the CEE countries and China has been growing fast but the potential is still great compared with trade between China and other parts of Europe.

Jan Kohout, an adviser to Czech President Milos Zeman, said many experts, universities, research institutions and business organizations have interest in the Belt and Road Initiative.

"We cooperate with many Chinese institutions in research on the initiative and we are linking it with the '16+1' cooperation," he said. "We even have research partners in Slovenia, Croatia, Romania and Poland."

Kohout said the initiative will bring about prosperity along the routes. It is not only about business but also about bringing people closer.

China has said that it is not pushing for other countries to join the Belt and Road Initiative and that it is open for the initiative to be coordinated with the development plans of other countries.


Some political leaders and observers said they see even wider significance for the visit of the Chinese president as it is expected to drive the cooperation between China and Europe too.

President Zeman said the Czech Republic is a country that can be trusted by China in the EU and his country is willing to fully utilize its influence to help further boost China's relations with the EU and CEE countries.

Zeman said his country is committed to becoming a gateway for China to the EU and a hub of transportation, logistics and finance in China-EU trade. "We are very proud of our economic and trade achievements with China," he said.

China is the largest trading partner of the Czech Republic outside the EU, while the Czech Republic is China's second-largest trading partner in the CEE. Bilateral trade topped 11 billion U.S. dollars last year.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Yuan Can,Bianji)

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