BRUSSELS, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- China is eying a promising 2018 for its relations with the European Union (EU), Ambassador Zhang Ming, head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, said Sunday in an interview with Xinhua.
Zhang, who served as China's vice foreign minister before coming to Brussels in October of 2017, reviewed China-EU relations in the outgoing 2017 and shared his expectation for 2018 in the exclusive interview.
PROMISING 2018 FOR CHINA-EU RELATIONS
"In the past year, the relations between China and the EU made steady progress, marked by expanded cooperation in various fields and enhanced mutual understanding," Zhang said.
Underlining that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a "new era" after the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held in October, Zhang said major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics should take new steps accordingly.
With regards to China-EU relations, he eyed a promising 2018, stressing that it marks the first year of fully implementing "the spirit of the 19th National Congress of the CPC" and the 40th anniversary of "reform and opening-up" in the country.
The year also marks the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership, said Zhang.
He added that 2018 is the China-EU Tourism Year, which would be launched in Venice, Italy, on Jan. 19.
"We will build on the good momentum of China-EU relations, further expand our mutually beneficial cooperation across the board, and add more strategic and global dimensions to China-EU relations," the diplomat said.
He reiterated that China is dedicated to the building of a new type of international relations with a win-win cooperation at the core, as well as the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
The EU is China's largest trading partner and China is the EU's second largest. Data from the China Customs showed that in the first 10 months of 2017, trade between the two sides increased 16.2 percent year on year to some 3.4 trillion yuan (about 500 billion U.S. dollars).
XI'S NEW YEAR SPEECH "EXCITING AND UPLIFTING"
Zhang just returned to Brussels on Sunday morning after a conference held in Beijing for Chinese diplomatic envoys, where Chinese President Xi Jinping made a speech calling for more efforts to advance the major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.
Speaking of Xi's New Year speech which was broadcast minutes before Zhang's interview with Xinhua, the diplomat said: "It was an exciting and uplifting speech. Although we diplomats work in different parts of the world, we feel very close to our motherland, with our fellow Chinese people, and with our leadership."
Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, delivered a New Year speech Sunday, vowing that China would resolutely carry out reforms in 2018. Xi extended New Year greetings to all Chinese, and best wishes to friends all over the world.
"As always, General Secretary Xi's message is of great vision and inspiration. However, it does not fall short of the warm and human touch. The message gives us more confidence and motivation to further our diplomatic work in the New Era," Zhang continued.
Zhang hailed that under the leadership of the Central Committee of the CPC with Xi at the core, China broke new grounds on the diplomatic front in the past year.
"Xi was personally involved in a number of high-level diplomatic events. I was lucky enough to witness and be involved in many of such events," said the ambassador.
"Xi is not only a commander that leads us, but also a soldier who fights along with us. On every international occasion, he endeavored to have China's voice heard, present China's solutions and contribute China's wisdom," he added.
"As a result, China's international standing and influence have significantly improved," he said.