PRAGUE, March 28, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) meets with Czech President Milos Zeman at the Lany presidential chateau in central Bohemia, Czech Republic, March 28, 2016. Xi started a three-day state visit to the Czech Republic from Monday, the first state visit by a Chinese president in 67 years since the two countries established diplomatic ties. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)
by Wang Fengfeng, Meng Na
PRAGUE, March 29 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman had an in-depth discussion after taking a stroll in the garden of the Czech president's summer residence on Monday, the first day of Xi's three-day state visit to the Czech Republic.
During their two-hour meeting, the two leaders discussed bilateral ties and how Prague can help strengthen Beijing's relations with both the European Union and the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region.
The meeting took place in Lany Chateau, the official summer residence of the Czech president just outside Prague. Zeman extended his warm welcome to Xi by greeting the Chinese leader at the door.
During the in-depth discussion on China-Czech ties and China-Europe relations, Xi said that friendship and cooperation has always been the dominant theme between Beijing and Prague since the establishment of their diplomatic relations more than six decades ago, despite the changing circumstances in the international arena and the ups and downs the two countries have gone through.
Xi stressed that the two countries have seen closer high-level engagements, more practical cooperation, and colorful people-to-people exchanges in recent years, ushering their relationship into a period of growth that is unprecedented in terms of both speed and results.
Mentioning an inter-governmental memorandum of understanding on jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative between the two countries signed in 2015 as a sound foundation to envision a brighter future, Xi said the two countries have a responsibility to renew their long-standing friendship.
Zeman said the Czech Republic attaches great importance to its relations with China, and is willing to prioritize the development of the Czech-China relations and cooperation.
Zeman said he believes Xi's visit will provide new opportunities to enhance political trust and exchanges in various areas.
A COUNTRY THAT CAN BE TRUSTED IN THE EU
Xi also discussed Beijing's relations with both the European Union and the CEE region with Zeman, reaffirming China's long-standing support to Europe's integration.
China is happy to see a prosperous, united and stable EU, and is willing to work with EU members and other European countries to contribute positively to world peace and development, said Xi.
Zeman said the Czech Republic is a country that can be trusted by China in the EU and is willing to fully utilize its influence to help further strengthen China's relations with the EU and the CEE region.
A GINKGO SAPLING
Xi arrived at Zeman's summer residence at about five o'clock in the afternoon. The two leaders went up the second-floor balcony to inspect the surrounding scenery, and then took a stroll around the garden and visited a newly renovated glass greenhouse.
They also planted a ginkgo sapling from China before their meeting. Xi said ginkgo, a symbol of long-lasting friendship in Chinese culture, signifies the friendly ties between the two countries.
He expressed his hope that the two countries will put their bilateral ties at a strategically important position and treat them with a view for the future.
During his visit to China in 2014, Zeman presented Xi with an apple tree sapling, which symbolizes cooperation in the Czech Republic.
Xi arrived earlier Monday in Prague for a three-day state visit. It is the first state visit by a Chinese president in 67 years since the two countries established diplomatic ties. It is also Xi's maiden visit to the CEE region since he assumed presidency in 2013 and his first trip to Europe this year.
Xi told Zeman that China and the Czech Republic have a long history of friendship despite the distance between them, and that he expects to elevate the bilateral ties to a new level with his visit.
After visiting the Czech Republic, Xi is expected to travel to Washington D.C. to attend the fourth Nuclear Security Summit, which is to be held from March 31 to April 1.