Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Britain is not only a big boost to China-Britain relations, but also very important to China's general ties with the European Union, said experts and officials.[Special coverage]
The visit between Monday and Friday follows Xi's first European tour as Chinese head of state last year to the Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium, said Qu Xing, Chinese ambassador to Belgium, the country which hosts the European Union.
This has shown a strong continuity in China's European strategy, Qu said, adding that China has been hoping for a united, strong and ever-growing Europe, just as Europe would like to see a further developing China continuing on its pace of reform and prosperity.
TRADE, ECONOMIC LINKS AS CORNERSTONE OF TIES
"Recognition of China as a global and regional strategic player is growing very much in Europe," said Shada Islam, director of policy at Brussels-based think-tank Friends of Europe, in a recent interview with Xinhua.
Islam said that even though Europe was on this moment focused on its neighborhood, its domestic troubles like the refugee crisis, the eurozone debt, and the referendum on Britain's EU membership, the China-EU relationship is there to stay because the ties are based on such a fundamental and indispensable necessity.
"The real issue is economic," said Islam, adding that China is a very important global economic player, while Britain and the EU are perceived to need more investment and trade from China.
The British government has introduced ambitious plans on upgrading infrastructure, building the Northern Powerhouse in the north of England and implementing the strategy of UK Industry 2050.
These plans and the Road and Belt Initiative and the initiatives of "Made in China 2025" and "Internet Plus" undertaken by China complement each other in many ways, said Xi in a written interview with Reuters prior to his visit to Britain.
According to Islam, the British government is especially interested in getting Chinese investment in railway links, in particular the high-speed railway link in northern England. In some other fields, including nuclear power plants, telecommunication and energy, where China has the money and Britain is interested in, there will also be cooperation opportunities.
At the witness of Xi and British Prime Minister David Cameron, China and Britain on Wednesday signed a slew of deals worth about 60 billion U.S. dollars, including those ones on joint development of Britain's Hinkley Point C nuclear power station and the high-speed 2 railway project.
"Britain definitely needs to modernize its infrastructure. This is win-win situation here," said Islam.
She believed it is going to have a big impact on the growth of jobs in Europe, which is in the big demand and big need for the moment. And it will also benefit China, which needs boost as well.
"Exchanges between China and Britain, in terms of trade and economy or people to people interactions, have largely been undervalued," said Song Xinning, an expert on European studies at China's Renmin University recently.
Trade between China and Britain has been growing constantly, unaffected by negative world economic environment, Song noted, adding that their bilateral trade is destined to play an important role in enhancing the overall trade and economic links between China and Europe.
BROAD PROSPECT FOR FURTHERING COOPERATION
This year marks the beginning of the second decade of the China-Britain comprehensive strategic partnership and the 40th anniversary of China-EU diplomatic ties.
"Both China-UK relationship and China-EU relationship face important opportunities to build on past success for new progress," said Xi in his written interview with Reuters.
According to the Chinese president, since Britain is an important member of the EU, China-Britain relationship and China-EU relationship reinforce each other.
"The Britain-China relationship, if it is not within the China-EU relationship, will be less important. Britain will be a less important player, if it is not within the EU," said Islam.
China and the EU have scored fruitful progress in cooperation since the two sides forged ties 40 years ago, and their leaders have worked out a good roadmap for the future, which is based on pragmatic cooperation in areas that the two sides have mutual benefit, such as China's Belt and Road Initiative and EU's (Jean-Claude) Juncker investment plan, she said.
"And we are really looking forward to getting to know more about China's 13th five-year plan, and what business opportunities that we open up," she said.
"But the potential for China-EU cooperation is immense, not just in business and economic cooperation, but also on global stage," said Islam.
China will be the chair of G20 next year, and will be in charge of G20 agenda of sustainable development, green development and global governance, so there is massive potential for discussion between China and the EU for cooperation and dialogue on global issues, according to Islam.
"There has been good cooperation so far over Iran," said Islam. "We are hoping to get similar dialogue going on the DPRK (the Democratic People's Republic of Korea), and we need to settle the havoc in Syria. China is a so indispensable player economically, but increasingly also strategically and politically."
Chinese President Xi Jinping is currently on a state visit to Britain, the first by a Chinese head of state in a decade. Xinhua is wiring a series of in-depth stories on Chinese-British relations and the visit.