by Xinhua writer Liang Junqian
BEIJING, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) -- With Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela beginning his state visit to China here on Thursday, the first such trip by a Panamanian leader, the two countries are expected to mark a milestone in their bilateral relationship.
During the week-long visit, Varela will meet Chinese leaders and take a bullet train to make an around-four-hour trip at a maximum speed of 350 km/h along the 1,318-km rail between Beijing and Shanghai, a major economic hub of China.
Before the establishment of their diplomatic relationship in June, China and Panama had expanded economic and trade cooperation in many sectors.
Last year alone, bilateral trade hit 6.38 billion U.S. dollars while China's direct investment in the Central American country exceeded 230 million dollars.
In just a few months since the two sides officially sent ambassadors to each other's country, bilateral ties have seen new and swift progress.
According to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the two countries have already initiated more than a dozen cooperation agreements in areas such as trade, investment, quality inspection, maritime transportation, aviation, finance and tourism.
There is even greater potential for future development.
Endowed with an advantageous geographical position, Panama constitutes one of the most important maritime transportation hubs in the world. The Panama Canal is a key conduit for international maritime trade. Every year, China has over 1,000 ships passing through the 77-km waterway, making it the world's second largest user of the canal.
Panama also supports China's Belt and Road Initiative, which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, and hopes to be a part of it, serving as a bridge that links China with other countries in the region.
For cooperation between the two countries to grow and prosper, a stable progress of bilateral relations, deepening political mutual trust as well as strong respect for each other's core interests is needed. Panama's avowed commitment to the one China policy has shown its sincerity to have a solid foundation for bilateral ties.
It is also hoped that Panama can play a greater role to help China build a stronger relationship with other countries in Central and South America.
China is willing to join hands with Panama and promote mutually beneficial cooperation. As it focuses on forging a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation, China is ready to work with other countries to build a community of shared future for mankind.
In that cause, China and Panama can become long-term and reliable partners that can enjoy shared progress and prosperity in the long run, and President Varela's visit may well witness a fresh start for that rewarding journey.