PARIS, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- French Prime Minister Francois Fillon left for China on Saturday afternoon for a three-day official visit.
He is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) Wu Bangguo and Premier Wen Jiabao during his first visit to China as French premier.
The two sides would exchange views on bilateral relations in an effort to further the China-France comprehensive and strategic partnership, as well as on other regional and international issues of common concern, said the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Fillon's visit from Dec. 20 to 22, to be accompanied by a large business delegation, was seen by observers as a symbol of the recovery of bilateral ties that were frozen in 2008 due to frictions over Tibet and other issues concerning China's core interests.
During this year, bilateral high-level visits and exchanges increased and cooperation in various sectors also became more vigorous.
Since April, the National Assembly Speaker Bernard Accoyer, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and Minister for Ecology and Sustainable Planning and Development Jean-Louis Borloo have made visits to China, while Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo and Commercial Minister Chen Deming have visited France.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed to push forward political mutual trust and propel the Sino-France partnership to healthy and stable development during their meetings in April and September.
The two sides have achieved results recently on bilateral trade as well. France is now China's fourth biggest trade partner in the European Union. Even in the context of the financial crisis, bilateral trade volume has reached a historical high of 38.94 billion U.S. dollars, up by 15.7 percent from last year.
Lagarde visited China in October, accompanied by 25 leading French enterprises, including representatives from aviation, energy, retailing and finance. One month later, a Chinese business delegation led by Chen, signed with the French side more than 40 agreements, worth some 1 billion euros (about 1.5 billion dollars), covering fields such as energy, auto industry and finance.
Moreover, the new EC175-Z15 helicopter, jointly developed and manufactured by the two sides, successfully performed its official maiden flight on Thursday in Marseilles, southeast of France.
In a recent interview, Chinese Ambassador to France Kong Quan told Xinhua that Sino-France relations were heading to the fast track on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of their bilateral diplomatic ties.
It was believed that, through a series of important visits between the two sides, including Fillon's visit, China and France would advance their friendly cooperation to a new stage, Kong said.