More connectivity, more cooperation

Zhang Jianmin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, 03 08, 2019
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China and the Czech Republic are more connected than ever, resulting in accelerated progress in exchanges and cooperation

President Xi Jinping's historic state visit to the Czech Republic in March 2016 led to the two sides upgrading their bilateral relationship to the level of a strategic partnership. Since then, the two countries have enhanced their strategic trust, deepened pragmatic cooperation and expanded their people-to-people exchanges. Results have been produced in various fields.

For one thing, bilateral trade has kept increasing. It has exceeded $10 billion for four years in a row. And it reached $16.3 billion in 2018, up 30.6 percent on the previous year.

China is now the second-biggest trading partner of the Czech Republic, while the latter is China's second-biggest trading partner in the Central and Eastern European region.

For many Czech companies including Home Credit and Skoda Auto, China is their most important market. One in every four cars produced by Skoda is sold in China.

And through the platform of the China International Import Expo, China is prepared to buy more from the Czech Republic and reduce the trade imbalance.

Last November, President Milos Zeman led a big delegation comprising over 60 Czech companies to Shanghai for the first expo, and numerous trade and business agreements were signed.

Czech investment in China reached about $300 million by the end of 2018.

And according to Chinese statistics, the total cumulative agreed investment stood at about$3 billion at the end of 2018, a 10-fold increase from the figure of 2013.

On the Chinese side, A123 Systems, a manufacturer of advanced lithium-ion batteries, established its first operation in Europe in 2017, opening a new production facility in Ostrava.

And Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, a global leader in automotive interior solutions, has set up two factories in Zatec and Plana with more than 1,500 employees.

Separately, Bank of China, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Bank of Communications have all set up branches in Prague, facilitating Czech efforts to turn Prague into a financial center serving Central and Eastern Europe.

Travel between China and the Czech Republic has now become much easier with four direct flights linking Prague with Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Xi'an.

Prague International Airport received over 190,000 passengers from China in 2018. And Chinese tourists totaled 620,000 in 2018, making China the biggest source of foreign tourists outside the European Union for the Czech Republic. There are also freight train services from China to Prague and Pardubice. Also, Chinese companies have set up more overseas warehouses and logistics centers in Prague. And cross-border e-commerce now enjoys robust growth.

In the medical field, Tong Ren Tang, a leading producer of traditional Chinese medicine, now runs a clinic in Prague. And its services are covered by VZP, one of the biggest Czech medical insurance providers.

All these are just a few examples of what the Belt and Road Initiative has brought to China-Czech cooperation.

President Zeman will attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing. And it will be a good opportunity for both sides to further expand their converging interests and strengthen their practical cooperation.

The Czech Republic was among the first to recognize the People's Republic of China in 1949. And as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic ties this year, we need to build on the strength of this traditional friendship and keep pace with the times to enhance bilateral cooperation.

Efforts should be made to promote greater synergy in our development strategies and step up cooperation in the automotive industry, aviation, machinery, energy and other sectors, as well as in the high-tech fields of nanotechnology, lasers, digital technology, medicine and biotechnology.

The prospects are also bright for greater cooperation in tourism, culture, health and education, as well as people-to-people and subnational exchanges.

Amid growing uncertainty in the world, both countries are resolute in opposing unilateralism and protectionism. And both countries are ready to strengthen dialogue and coordination on major international issues and remain committed to working together under the framework of 16+1 cooperation to boost cooperation not just between Central and Eastern European countries and China, but also between the European Union and China.

President Xi and President Zeman planted a sapling of a Chinese Ginkgo tree together in 2016 when President Xi visited Prague. When President Zeman visited Beijing two years earlier, he gave the Chinese president a sapling of a Czech apple tree. Both trees are considered to be symbols of the China-Czech friendship and cooperation.

Similarly, it is necessary for both sides to make joint efforts in order for the trees of friendship and cooperation to bear more fruit. Opportunities are ahead of us, it is up to us to seize them.

The author is Chinese ambassador to the Czech Republic. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

  (China Daily 03/08/2019 page13)

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