A line of national flags of China and the Czech Republic hang on the lampstands alongside a main road in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic on March 26, 2016. (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping will make a state visit to the Czech Republic from March 28 to 30.[Special coverage]
Xi's visit to the Czech Republic will be the first state visit by a Chinese president in 67 years since the two countries established diplomatic ties, his first to Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) as head of state, and his first trip to Europe this year.
The visit signals a major diplomatic move toward Europe, and also demonstrates the significance of the country as China's key cooperation partner in the CEE region.
MAJOR DIPLOMATIC MOVE
As a major country not only in the CEE region but also in the European Union (EU), the Czech Republic has a unique geopolitical status.
Bordered by Poland to the north and Germany to the west, the landlocked country plays the role of a "bridge" between Eastern Europe and Western Europe both geographically and politically.
Having taken over the presidency of the Visegrad Group, the Czech Republic is a member country of NATO, and in the meantime, also belongs to the Shengen region.
Given its geographical advantages and influence on the CEE countries, the country could play a vital and positive role under the framework of China-CEE cooperation -- the so-called "16+1" mechanism, as well as under the broader framework of China-EU cooperation.
Xi's upcoming visit will bring a brighter future for the development of friendly relations between China and the CEE countries, and even Europe as a whole.
His visit is expected to boost the integration of the major development strategies of China and Europe, and expand cooperation between China and CEE countries, analysts said.
The visit, described by many as a major episode in the history of Chinese-Czech diplomatic exchanges, will also usher in a new phase for bilateral ties that will witness a rapid development of their mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields.
MAJOR NATION ALONG "BELT&ROAD" ROUTE
With rich industrial resources and a per capita GDP of nearly 20,000 U.S. dollars, the Czech Republic is one of the most advanced and prosperous economies among the 16 CEE countries.
Trade and economic relations between the country and China have been growing rapidly over recent years. So far, the Czech Republic has become the second-largest trading partner of China in the CEE region, and China has been the Czech Republic's second-largest trading partner in the world, next only to the EU. In 2015, their two-way trade topped 11 billion U.S. dollars.
The country, situated at a junction point along the "Belt and Road" route, has been dedicated to transforming itself into a transport and logistics hub connecting Central Europe with Eastern Europe and Southeastern Europe.
Last November, China and the Czech Republic signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on jointly building the China-proposed "Belt and Road" initiative at the fourth leaders' meeting of China and the CEE countries in Eastern China's Suzhou city. It is the first MOU sealed by China and a CEE country concerning the initiative.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has on many occasions expressed strong enthusiasm and willingness to play a part in the "Belt and Road" initiative, hoping that the Czech Republic could become a bellwether for the cooperation between China and the CEE region.
Sobotka has also expressed the hope to make the Czech Republic a regional hub for financial cooperation.
Meanwhile, the two sides have also demonstrated strong willingness to expand cooperation on aligning the two countries' development strategies in such sectors as manufacturing, nuclear power, finance, aviation, nanotechnology and biology, and have discussed future cooperation in infrastructure projects, including the construction of high-speed rails, roads and bridges.
Under the Belt and Road Initiative, multi-faceted cooperation between the two countries is blessed with huge potential and definitely has very promising prospects.