A farm growing from China-Czech friendship

2016-03-29 13:10:45 GMT2016-03-29 21:10:45(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

SHIJIAZHUANG, March 29 (Xinhua) -- Although he has never been there,Chinese farmer Zhou Chuanjiang feels a profound connection to the Czech Republic.

Spending his lifetime working on a north China farm that benefited from a Czech grant of agricultural machines and training in the 1950s, Zhou, 81, used to drive the farm's first Czech-made tractor.

As Xi Jinping makes the first state visit by a Chinese president to the Czech Republic this week, the history of cooperation between the two countries is in the limelight again. "I feel so proud to have witnessed the two countries' friendship over six decades," Zhou said.

He worked 200 km from Beijing, in Cangzhou of Hebei Province, on the Sino-Czechoslovakia Friendship Farm, which was named by late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. Sino-Czechoslovakia is shortened to "Zhongjie" in Chinese.

The 268-square-km farm was established in June 1956 after Czechoslovakia granted China more than 670 pieces of agricultural machinery for use there.

Zhou became an expert in tractor maintenance after training by Czech specialists.

"While farmers elsewhere in China were still using hooks and hoes, we got tractors and combine harvesters," Zhou recalled.

With the farm providing a massive boost to the local economy, Cangzhou officials named streets, monuments and parks after Sino-Czech friendship.

In 2007, Zhongjie Friendship Farm was renamed Zhongjie Industrial Park and its scope was broadened from agriculture. In the past three years, Chinese companies and their Czech partners in the park have signed business agreements with a total contract value of 30 billion yuan (4.6 billion U.S. dollars), with industries ranging from aviation to wine production.

"President Xi's state visit will definitely bring us opportunities for market expansion," said Zhang Peng, general manager of the park's Nitra Wine Chateau.

Jan Kohout, adviser to the Czech president, said the growth of high-tech industries at the park reflects the future priority for cooperation between the two countries.

"Zhongjie is the best example of successful long-term cooperation between Czech and China," he said, describing it as "an inspiration for a strong, enduring, long-term partnership."

The farm was not the only project in China named after Sino-Czech friendship. Inspired by Czech technology and the friendly ties between the two countries, a machine tool plant in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning Province, was renamed Zhongjie Friendship Factory in May 1960. Then Chinese Vice Premier Xi Zhongxun attended the renaming ceremony, giving the initiative top-level backing.

After producing China's first radial drilling machine and first horizontal boring machine, the factory was merged with three other plants to become Shenyang Zhongjie Radial Drilling Machine Co. in 1999.

Shi Yanhua, deputy general manager of the company, said the company could never have become a national giant without reference to Czech technological practices.

"We expect to boost technology and personnel exchanges with the Czech Republic to seek new development opportunities," said Shi, who visited the European country in 2012 for market research.

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