ROME, March 20 (Xinhua) -- An upcoming state visit to Italy by President Xi Jinping will open up a new chapter in Sino-Italian relations, Chinese Ambassador to Italy Li Ruiyu has said.
Xi's visit, starting Thursday, will be the first of its kind in a decade, Li said in a recent interview with Xinhua, noting that bilateral relations have been on the fast track since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1970, and especially since they forged a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2004.
The China-Italy traditional friendship is growing ever deep, bilateral cooperation in various fields is booming, and high-level exchanges are witnessing sound momentum, added the ambassador.
Meanwhile, the two sides have always understood and supported each other on issues of core interests and major concerns, continuously consolidating political mutual trust, Li said.
As China and Italy celebrate the 15th anniversary of their comprehensive strategic partnership this year and the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic relations next year, Xi's upcoming visit is of great importance, stressed the ambassador.
The state visit, he said, is set to steer forward the development of bilateral relations by drawing up a new blueprint for ties, creating new cooperation opportunities, and infusing new vigor into the long-running friendship between the two countries.
China and Italy have highly complementary economic structures and broad shared interests, Li pointed out, noting that bilateral trade reached a record of 54.23 billion U.S. dollars in 2018 despite weak global trade.
In addition, cooperation in such areas as port construction, 5G communications and third-party collaboration is gathering steam, the number of high-quality cultural exchange programs are growing, and people-to-people and subnational exchanges are on the rise, he added.
The Chinese ambassador highlighted how thousands of opportunities in tech cooperation have been created through the nine editions of the China-Italy Science, Technology and Innovation Week.
China and Italy, at the two ends of the ancient Silk Road, are important partners within the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Li said, noting that Rome has responded positively to the initiative and deems it an important opportunity in bilateral relations.
During his visit, Xi will exchange views with Italian leaders on deepening bilateral ties and BRI cooperation, and the two sides are expected to sign a series of important agreements, said the ambassador.
"I am confident that the implementation of these cooperation agreements will surely inject new energy into the development of China-Italy relations in this new phase, open up a new space for jointly building the Belt and Road, and lift the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership to a new level," he said.
On cultural and people-to-people exchanges, Li said the leaders of the two countries will further promote mutual learning and bilateral friendship during Xi's visit.
He added that in order to help both countries to better understand each other, Rome will host a second plenary meeting of cultural cooperation between China and Italy, as well as multiple high-level exhibitions and artistic programs.
On technological cooperation, the ambassador noted that the two sides share a strong willingness to deepen ties in science, technology and innovation.
The two countries, he added, will continue to step up cooperation in such fields as aerospace, artificial intelligence, fundamental research, environmental protection, sustainable development and health care, to the benefit of both peoples.
In the field of education, Li said bilateral exchanges have been expanding rapidly, with Italy now hosting about 24,000 Chinese students and China hosting 6,430 Italian students in 2017.
As bilateral cooperation grows deeper within the BRI framework, more Italians are starting to familiarize themselves with the Chinese language and culture. Since 2006, 12 Confucius Institutes and nearly 40 Confucius Classrooms have been established in Italy, more than 100 Italian primary and secondary schools have opened Mandarin courses, and the Chinese language has become a major in more than 40 Italian universities.
Xi's visit, said the ambassador, will add fuel to the "Mandarin fever" in Italy and help reinforce public support for further deepening political ties between the two countries.
"Italy is a trustworthy good friend and good partner of China in the European Union (EU)," Li said.
Through this visit, he added, China hopes to join hands with Italy to send a clear message to the world that China will work with Italy and the EU to advocate openness and win-win cooperation, while firmly safeguarding multilateralism and the rules-based free trade system.
In so doing, said the ambassador, the two countries will bolster bilateral and China-EU relations, as well as to efforts to promote world peace, stability and prosperity.