President Xi Jinping welcomes Italian President Sergio Mattarella during a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Feb. 22, 2017. (Photo/Xinhua)
Belt, Road high on agenda on president's first stop in his 3-country European trip
China stands ready to work with Italy on the Belt and Road Initiative by strengthening its alignment with the European country's development strategies to bring bilateral ties to a new level, President Xi Jinping said.
Xi made the remark in a signed article published in the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday, one day before starting his three-nation European tour to Italy, Monaco and France.
Though far from each other, China and Rome were linked by the old Silk Road over 2,000 years ago, Xi said in the article, mentioning the cultural exchanges between the two countries in the distant past.
He said Beijing is willing to deepen cooperation with Rome in such areas as land and marine transportation, aviation, aerospace and cultural exchanges to build the Belt and Road in the new period.
"I'm willing to avail myself of this visit to work with Italian leaders on the blueprint of Sino-Italian relations and lead the ties into the new era," Xi said.
He called on the two sides to tap more potential for partnership in port logistics, shipping, energy, telecommunications and medicine, and encourage enterprises from the two countries to develop third-party cooperation to seek mutual benefit and win-win results.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said he may sign a series of memorandums of understanding on Belt and Road infrastructure investments during Xi's visit to Italy, Reuters reported.
If that takes place, Italy would be the first of the Group of Seven industrialized nations to participate in the BRI.
Speaking at a news conference in Beijing on Wednesday, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Chao said the country appreciates Italy's involvement in the BRI.
"We believe the signing of relevant cooperation documents conforms to the common interests of both countries," Wang said, adding that Belt and Road cooperation aims to deliver mutually beneficial and win-win results.
Regarding concerns about the BRI, Wang said practice will prove the initiative will bring positive effects in the countries' respective economic development and bilateral cooperation.
Infrastructure investment by Chinese companies in Europe is purely a business matter and abides by market rules and business principles on the basis of equality and mutual benefit as well as openness and transparency, he said.
The country will continue to support Chinese companies in developing cooperation with their Italian counterparts in telecommunications, particularly in the 5G network, Wang said.
The two countries have witnessed productive economic cooperation in recent years. Bilateral trade topped $50 billion last year while two-way cumulative investment reached more than $20 billion, officials said.
Xi also called for intensifying coordination with Italy in international affairs and within multilateral organizations like the United Nations, the Group of 20 and the World Trade Organization.
China is ready to deepen communication and cooperation with Italy on major issues such as global governance, climate change and WTO reform to safeguard their shared interests, uphold multilateralism and free trade, and promote world peace, development and prosperity, Xi said.
Wang said Xi's visit to Monaco will open a new chapter for bilateral ties, which have become a good example of interactions between big and small countries.
In France, Xi and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, will exchange views on Sino-French and China-European Union relations as well as regional and international issues of common concern, Wang said.
They will also witness the signing of cooperation agreements between the two countries on energy, transportation, agriculture, finance, science and technology and culture, he added.
"We trust President Xi's visits will advance the higher-level cooperation between China and the three countries, inject fresh impetus into China-EU relations in the new era and open up new space for Belt and Road cooperation so as to benefit more Chinese and European peoples and make new contributions to world peace and development," Wang said.