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Beijing and Prague form new key link

Updated: 2016-03-29 19:17
By AN BAIJIE in Prague and LI XIAOKUN in Beijing (China Daily)

Beijing and Prague form new key link

President Xi Jinping and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman attend a signing ceremony in Prague on Tuesday. MICHAL CIZEK / AFP

China established a strategic partnership with the Czech Republic on Tuesday during the visit by President Xi Jinping to the European nation.

It is the first state visit by a Chinese president since diplomatic ties were established with the former Czechoslovakia 67 years ago.

Xi and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman signed a joint statement on the partnership after official talks. They also witnessed the signing of nine documents, covering fields such as electronic business and investment.

"The strategic partnership has laid a political foundation for future development of our relations," Xi said at a news conference.

Zeman has hailed the visit as a watershed in the nations' ties and has estimated that business deals to be signed during Xi's trip could bring in nearly $4 billion in Chinese investment this year.

He told China Central Television earlier, "It's a new start, since we used to have terrible relations with China and the previous government gave in to pressure from the United States and the European Union.

"We ... formulate our foreign policy based on our own interests."

President Xi said on Tuesday the two countries will draw up a guideline to link China's Belt and Road Initiative with the Czech Republic's development strategy and further extend it to China's cooperation with countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

The two nations will promote cooperation in fields including infrastructure, financing and high-technology and sign deals on large nuclear energy projects, Xi said.

"In the past two years, I have met President Zeman five times. We have become good friends and old friends," he said.

Following his state visit to China in October 2014, Zeman visited Beijing in September last year to attend the commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).

Zeman told reporters on Tuesday that the Czech-headquartered automobile company Skoda will invest 60 billion crowns ($2.48 billion) in China to build factories.

"I hope the Czech Republic will become the gateway for China to enter the European Union," he said.

In the morning, Xi was greeted with a 21-gun salute at Prague Castle, the seat of the Czech presidency. He also greeted an honor guard.

China is the Czech Republic's largest trading partner outside the EU, with annual bilateral trade worth $21 billion.

The two countries have agreed to discuss establishing a renminbi clearing center in the Czech Republic.

Ma Junchi, a researcher of European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Xi's visit comes as the two countries in recent years have seen the fastest development since diplomatic ties were established.

Zhao Junjie, another CASS researcher, said, "One of every four cars made by Skoda is now sold to China."

He said the Czech Republic needs Chinese funding and advanced technology in infrastructure, and is eager to explore the huge Chinese market.

Contact the writers at anbaijie@chinadaily.com.cn

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