GENEVA, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to Switzerland is expected to deepen China-Switzerland partnership, a model of peaceful co-existence and win-win cooperation between big and small countries with different social systems and at different development phases.
Relations with Switzerland have always been a priority in China's diplomacy with European countries.
Switzerland was one of the first Western countries to establish formal ties with China and the first country to set up an industrial joint venture in China in 1980.
Switzerland was among the first European countries to recognize China's market economy status, to ink a free trade agreement with China, and to apply for membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a China-initiated multilateral bank.
Over recent years, China-Switzerland relations have yielded fruitful achievements in various aspects.
Political mutual trust has reached a new high. Frequent high-level exchanges have facilitated smooth communication on a series of important issues, and more than 20 governmental dialogue and consultation systems function well, helping enhance coordination and cooperation at different levels between the two sides.
The two countries have conducted practical and effective economic and trade cooperation. Switzerland is a major trade partner of China in Europe, and China is the European country's largest trade partner in Asia.
Since the inception of the China-Switzerland free trade agreement (FTA) in 2014, bilateral trade and mutual investment have flourished. Against the sluggishness of the global economy, bilateral trade reached 44.27 billion U.S. dollars in 2015.
Financial cooperation has made progress. The Chinese and Swiss central banks signed a currency swap agreement worth 24 billion dollars in 2014, which was intended to provide liquidity support to economic and trade exchanges between the two countries. In 2016, the China Construction Bank, a leading Chinese state-owned lender, set up a branch in Zurich, marking the official launch of the renminbi clearing business in the world's largest offshore financial hub.
Since China has pursued sweeping and painstaking reforms at home to build an innovation-based and environment-friendly economy, there is a great potential for bilateral cooperation in innovation, environmental protection, tourism and people-to-people exchanges in the coming years.
Switzerland's ability to innovate is very attractive to China. According to Global Innovation Index 2016, Switzerland ranked for sixth consecutive years the world's most innovative country.
Meanwhile, Switzerland serves as a model in combining economic development and environmental protection. Over the past years, the two countries have conducted cooperation in the cleanup of the Dianchi Lake in Yunnan province and the protection of the Ancient Tea Horse Road.
During then-president Johann Schneider-Ammann's state visit to China in 2016, the two sides pinned high hopes on cooperation in air pollution control, low-carbon city development and green consumption, as well as in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
In addition, the two countries would deepen cooperation in tourism, higher education, vocational training, among others.