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China-Czech cooperation to set example for “Belt and Road Initiative”

(Source: Xinhua News Agency, 2016-03-27)

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman sign a joint statement on lifting the two countries' ties to a strategic partnership after their talks in Prague, the Czech Republic, March 29, 2016. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)

China's "Belt and Road Initiative" will see new developments when President Xi Jinping embarks on his maiden visit to the Czech Republic on Monday.

The two countries, though geographically distant, enjoy a traditional friendship that keeps strengthening over time. For Chinese born in the 1970s and 1980s, the little mole in Krtek, the first foreign cartoon series introduced to China, is a most pleasant childhood memory. Bedrich Smetana's symphonic cycle Ma Vlast and Jaroslav Hasek's The Good Soldier Svejk are also familiar masterpieces in China.

However, the country remains mysterious for many in China.

The upcoming visit, the first state visit by a Chinese president since the two countries established diplomatic ties 67 years ago, indicates that the Central and Eastern European nation will play a role in China's global strategy and the bilateral ties will develop.

For China, the Czech Republic, with gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of nearly 20,000 U.S. dollars, is a partner with great potential.

China is looking to cooperate with the Czech Republic in technology, in major industrial sectors such as sustainable energy, chemical, and machinery, while the Czech Republic is interested in China's high-speed rail, nuclear power and other infrastructure experience as well as capital flow.

Currently, the Czech Republic is the second biggest trading partner of China in the Central and Eastern European region, and China has been the Czech Republic's largest trading partner outside the European Union. In 2015, two-way trade topped 11 billion U.S. dollars.

Although a small country, with a population of about 10 million, the Czech Republic has a decisive role in Central and Eastern Europe concerning its geographic location and economic strength.

If the two countries tested the potential of economic cooperation and developed a sustainable model under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, it would set an example for other countries and become a powerful engine in China's push in the region.

The Belt and Road Initiative, put forward and promoted by China, eyes an open and smooth channel of trade, capital and cooperation across the Eurasian continent. Central and Eastern Europe holds the key to the European end of this channel, while the 16 countries in this region take up nearly one fourth of all countries along the “Belt and Road”.

China has invested heavily in boosting cooperation in the region. Heads of governments from China and 16 Central and Eastern Europe nations have met annually since 2012, with several cooperation outlines reached.

In June last year, China inked a memorandum of understanding on promoting the Belt and Road Initiative with Hungary, followed by five cooperation documents with Poland, Serbia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Slovakia in November.

In December, a consortium of Chinese companies led by China Railway started to build a railway between Budapest, Hungary and Belgrade, Serbia, a major project to showcase the dynamics of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Through closer economic cooperation with these countries, China aims to develop its European strategy.

China-EU relations are at historical best. By further synergizing development strategies and enhancing communication and coordination in the international arena, China and the EU will effectively tap the unprecedented historic opportunities now presented to them and make new progress in their comprehensive strategic partnership.