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Friday, June 17, 2016, 21:02

Xi arrives in Serbia for state visit

By Xinhua

Xi arrives in Serbia for state visit
In this photo provided by the Serbian Presidential Press Service, Chinese President Xi Jinping ( center left) is welcomed by children as he walks with his Serbian counterpart, Tomislav Nikolic, after arriving to Belgrade, Serbia , June 17, 2016. (Serbian Presidential Press Service via AP)

In a demonstration of China's willingness to consolidate political mutual trust and expand practical cooperation with CEE countries, Xi will travel from Serbia to Poland for a state visit.

China and Serbia share a time-honored traditional friendship. In 2009, Serbia became the first CEE country to establish a strategic partnership with China.

Nikolic paid a state visit to China in 2013. Last year, he went to Beijing again to attend the commemorative activities marking the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War. Serbia also dispatched a formation to participate in China's V-Day military parade on Sept 3, 2015.

Two-way trade grew by 2.3 percent year on year to $550 million in 2015, according to Chinese customs.

Also last year, Serbia signed a memorandum of understanding with China to jointly promote the connectivity-based Belt and Road Initiative during the fourth leaders' meeting of China and 16 CEE countries, which was held in Suzhou, China.

The initiative, proposed by Xi in 2013, consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It is aimed at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes.

China and Serbia have strengthened cooperation on infrastructure construction and investment over recent years.

Serbia's sole steel mill in the city of Smederevo, which had experienced difficulties in operation, was bought by China's HeSteel Group (HBIS) for 46 million euros in April this year.

HBIS plans to invest at least 300 million euros in the steel mill and turn it into one of the most competitive in Europe. The Chinese company has promised to employ all 5,000 workers of the factory.

On the cultural front, Yugoslavian films had a considerable influence among the Chinese people. Last month, a widespread nostalgia was sparked across China by the death of 83-year-old actor Velimir Bata Zivojinovic, who is popular among the older generation in China for his role of Walter from the 1972 movie "Walter Defends Sarajevo."

"The Chinese president's visit is of historic significance for the two countries to cement traditional friendship, deepen political mutual trust and chart the course for practical cooperation," Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Haixing told reporters ahead of Xi's visit.

After Serbia and Poland, the Chinese president will travel to Uzbekistan for a state visit as well as the 16th meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Heads of State in Tashkent.

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