Spotlight: Four takeaways from Xi's 49-hour historic state visit to Czech Republic

2016-03-30 19:42:22 GMT2016-03-31 03:42:22(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English
PRAGUE, March 30, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman attend the China-Czech Economic Roundtable in Prague, the Czech Republic, March 30, 2016. (Xinhua/Ju Peng) PRAGUE, March 30, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman attend the China-Czech Economic Roundtable in Prague, the Czech Republic, March 30, 2016. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)
PRAGUE, March 30, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman attend the China-Czech Economic Roundtable in Prague, the Czech Republic, March 30, 2016. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei) PRAGUE, March 30, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman attend the China-Czech Economic Roundtable in Prague, the Czech Republic, March 30, 2016. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)
PRAGUE, March 30, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping (L, front) and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman (R, front) attend the China-Czech Economic Roundtable in Prague, the Czech Republic, March 30, 2016. (Xinhua/Liu Weibing) PRAGUE, March 30, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping (L, front) and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman (R, front) attend the China-Czech Economic Roundtable in Prague, the Czech Republic, March 30, 2016. (Xinhua/Liu Weibing)
PRAGUE, March 30, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping (R, front) and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman (L, front) visit the Strahov Library in Prague, the Czech Republic, March 30, 2016. (Xinhua/Lan Hongguang) PRAGUE, March 30, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping (R, front) and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman (L, front) visit the Strahov Library in Prague, the Czech Republic, March 30, 2016. (Xinhua/Lan Hongguang)

PRAGUE, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's 49-hour state visit from Monday to Wednesday to the Czech Republic saw the two countries ink a host of agreements ranging from lifting of bilateral ties to advancing economic and technology cooperation.

The historic visit by Xi, the first by a head of state from China to the Czech Republic in 67 years, began with a "no necktie" meeting at the Czech president's summer residence and concluded with a beer-toasting farewell at a picturesque medieval library overlooking Prague.

AGREEMENT ON UPGRADE OF TIES

One of the most significant achievements for Xi's visit to the Czech Republic is that the Czech Republic and China have agreed to elevate their bilateral relations to a strategic partnership, a remarkable step that sets up a "clear political direction" to the future of bilateral relations between the two countries.

During his meeting with Zeman, the Chinese president said that the two countries have seen closer high-level engagements, more practical cooperation, and more frequent exchanges between the peoples in recent years, ushering their relationship into "a period of growth that is unprecedented in terms of both speed and results."

Besides the uplifted bilateral relations, the two sides also agreed on enhancing cooperation on fields such as production capacity, finance, nuclear energy, e-commerce, communication and environment protection.

Moreover, the Chinese president's visit is not all about politics, as interesting and heart-warming sidelights also played a big part.

The Chinese president, who is an enthusiastic sport fan, met with budding football players and ice-hockey players from both countries. He, in company with Zeman, watched the Czech Boys Choir performing a masterpiece of Bedrich Smetana, commonly known as the father of Czech music.

SAPLING FOR FRIENDSHIP

Another highlighted moment of the three-day visit is when Xi and Zeman joined hands to plant a ginkgo sapling, which was brought from China as a gift for the Czech Republic, at Lany Chateau, the official summer residence for the Czech president outside Prague.

Xi said that ginkgo, a symbol of long-lasting friendship in Chinese culture, signifies the friendly ties between the two countries.

During Zeman's visit to China in 2014, the Czech president presented Xi with an apple tree sapling, which is symbolic of cooperation in his country.

The exchange of meaningful gifts shed light on the bond between Xi and Zeman, who was warmly welcomed by the Chinese president in Beijing when he attended China's V-Day Parade on September 13, 2015.

This time when Zeman played the host, he welcomed Xi with all due courtesy. The Czech side sent two fighter jets to escort when Xi's plane entered Czech airspace on Monday, and Zeman hosted a grand welcoming ceremony at the renowned Prague Castle, the seat of the Czech presidency.

During the ceremony, the officer for guards of honor spoke in Chinese to invite Xi for inspection, and Xi, in return, spoke in Czech to thank the guards of honor after he finished the inspection.

Zuzana Stichova, reporter with the Czech news outlet Blesk News, said that the Xi-Zeman meeting at Lany Chateau on Monday night is the first time that Zeman has received a foreign head of state at the presidential summer residence, and that the informal setting suggests the two leaders are on very good terms.

KEY TO PRAGUE

Another symbolic moment during Xi's visit came on Tuesday afternoon when the Chinese president was presented with a key to the city by Prague Mayor Adriana Krnacova at a ceremony in the Liechtenstein Palace.

Xi visited the Central and Eastern European (CEE) country in search of a partner to build the Belt and Road Initiative and a pivot point for fast-track cooperation with both the European Union and the CEE region. In both cases, he met his expectations, finding the key to accomplish the two tasks.

During the talks with Zeman, Xi reaffirmed China's long-standing support for Europe's integration, saying China is happy to see a prosperous, united and stable EU, and stands ready to work with the EU members and other European countries for world peace and development.

Zeman, referring to China as "a major economic partner" of the EU, said that 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 by joining hands with China in deepening mutual trust and playing a conducive role in pushing China-CEE cooperation forward.

Promoting the Belt and Road Initiative during his visit, Xi said that the Czech Republic, an important country along the Silk Road Economic Belt, together with China, is faced with enormous development opportunity.

The call was echoed by both Zeman and Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, and the two countries agreed to strengthen the synergy of China's Belt and Road Initiative and the Czech development strategies, and jointly draw up a cooperation plan between the two countries.

BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE

Business deals are, as always, one of the most eye-catching elements in Chinese leaders' visits to foreign countries.

At a business roundtable, Xi and Zeman witnessed a host of business deals signed between Chinese and Czech companies on areas ranging from automobile, finance, energy, aviation and infrastructure development.

Chen Qiutu, president of China CEFC Energy Company Limited, said that companies from both sides are making strides to push forward cooperation in various sectors, and that the business community has become an integral part in promoting the Belt and Road Initiative.

Chen said that the joint efforts by the two heads of state have paved the way to a business boom between the Czech Republic and China.

For many years in a row, China has been the Czech Republic's largest trading partner outside the EU and the Czech Republic China's second largest trading partner in the CEE. In 2015, bilateral trade topped 11 billion U.S. dollars.

"We are very proud of our economic and trade achievements with China," Zeman said.

After concluding the state visit, Xi left Prague on Wednesday for the United States to attend the fourth Nuclear Security Summit, which is to be held in Washington D.C. from March 31 to April 1.

(by Xinhua writers Meng Na, Wang Fengfeng, Luo Jun and Bai Jie)

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