President Xi Jinping's visit to Switzerland is expected to yield fruitful results and usher in a new era of innovative strategic partnership. [Special coverage]
The trip, Xi's first abroad this year and the first to the Alpine country by a Chinese president in the 21st century, will see the two states work out a new blueprint for the development of bilateral ties and sign cooperation deals covering politics, free trade, culture, customs, energy and sports.
Amid flagging international trade and uncertainty for the global economic recovery, the visit has sent a strong message to the world that China and Switzerland are committed to protecting an open and inclusive global trade system, safeguarding world peace and stability, and promoting a fair and reasonable global governance system.
Although China and Switzerland are different in social systems and development stages, bilateral ties have been characterized by a number of "firsts" over the past decades.
Switzerland was among the first Western countries to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. After China began its reform and opening-up drives in late 1970s, Switzerland set up China's first industrial joint venture in 1980.
It was the first European country to recognize China's complete market economy status, and the first continental European country to ink a free trade agreement with China.
Switzerland was also among the first European countries to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a China-initiated multilateral institution aimed at providing financing for infrastructure improvement in Asia.
Sino-Swiss relations have become a good example of peaceful co-existence and win-win cooperation between countries of different social systems, development stages and sizes.
In the political sphere, bilateral ties have been propelled forward by the exchange of high-level visits. Xi's visit came barely one year after then-President Johann Schneider-Ammann's state visit to China in April 2016, during which the two countries established an innovative strategic partnership. In addition, more than 20 dialogue and consultation mechanisms are running smoothly and have played an important role in strengthening coordination and cooperation at various levels.
In the economic and trade sector, trade volume between the two countries reached 44.27 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, marking a 1.7-percent growth compared to 2014. China has become Switzerland's biggest trading partner in Asia while Switzerland is also China's major trading partner in Europe.
Switzerland is one of most innovative countries in the world, ranking among the top in terms of the number of patents per capita, with scientific research personnel accounting for 12 out of 10,000 people. China, meanwhile, has decided to pursue an innovation-based development strategy by listing "innovation" as one of its five development concepts in its 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), which also include coordination, green development, opening up and sharing.
"A stronger China-Switzerland economic relationship is helpful to China's ties with Europe," said Wang Yiwei, an international relations scholar from Renmin University of China.
In the tourism and cultural field, over 1.36 million visits to Switzerland were made by Chinese tourists in 2015, and China has become the fourth biggest tourist source for Switzerland. There is also broad cooperation space in higher education and vocational training.
It is reasonable to expect that innovative cooperation between China and Switzerland will play an exemplary role in China's relations with Europe and ultimately benefit the two peoples.