Czech Republic expects Congress to bring positive impact to bilateral ties
Relations between the Czech Republic and the People's Republic of China date back to many years. During that period both countries have developed a solid partnership and friendship and our cooperation becomes stronger and closer every year. In 2019 we will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations. I believe that by that time our relationship will reach new heights.
A new chapter in our relations began after the 18th Party Congress in 2012, especially because of an excellent personal relationship between both presidents - Xi Jinping and Miloš Zeman. President Zeman visited China three times since then.
The historic visit of President Xi in March 2016 was the most important event in our bilateral relations in this new chapter of relations. It was the first time for any Chinese president to visit the Czech Republic.
The strategic partnership, which was signed during the visit, is now the basic guideline for further strengthening the relations in all the important areas and serves as a basic outline for cooperation.
This year in May President Miloš Zeman took an active part in the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing. An integral part of his visit to China was a visit to the "Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall." The Czech Republic has been active in the Belt and Road initiative (BRI)from the very beginning and our companies fit well with the reform and development strategies of China, including under the BRI.
The Czech Republic also continues to play an active role within the 16+1 format - especially in health and regional cooperation, as well as aviation. The China Investment Forum in the 16+1 format takes place in the Czech Republic annually.
In the last five years our bilateral trade has grown by more than 50 percent and we have seen some very important investments taking place in both countries. Some major Chinese companies like Changhong, CEFC, ICBC, Huawei, CGN, Hisense and CRRC are successfully operating in the Czech market. At the same time, there are a lot of success stories of Czech companies in China, like Škoda Auto and Home Credit. Škoda Auto sold almost 320,000 cars in China in 2016. Czech consumer finance company Home Credit has been operating in China for many years and employs more than 86,000 staff locally. The machinery sector is still the core of Czech exports to China.
People-to-people exchanges are equally important. In order to facilitate further exchanges, new connections on top of the three existing direct flights will be launched this month from Xi'an to Prague, and we hope to open more flight connections in the near future. We expect the Czech Republic to welcome almost half a million Chinese visitors this year. We are also targeting the increase in growth in student exchanges under the project Study in the Czech Republic. Of course, we should not forget the cultural dimension of our relationship, where there is an increasing interest on both sides for greater cooperation.
I truly believe that China and the EU, as well as China and the Czech Republic, have great potential to build on the existing level of ties. I value the support of China to the integration processes in the European Union and hope that China and the EU can further develop the partnership. In this context, the Comprehensive Investment Agreement, when finalized, will be a good base for further enhancing economic cooperation.
We have carefully monitored the development and progress that China has achieved since its 18th national Party congress in both the political and economic sphere (especially continued successes in poverty reduction). The progress was visible in the increasingly active role of China in foreign policy and China's bigger emphasis on the promotion of its major-country diplomacy concept, as well as in domestic stability and further infrastructure development and innovation. We welcome President Xi's speech in Davos in favor of a market-oriented, open global economy as well as his support of the Paris climate agreement.
I hope that the 19th national Party congress will bring China's new ideas and initiatives that would be useful for dynamic domestic development but at the same time, that would enable us to further enhance cooperation between our two countries, be it bilaterally, in other formats or under different projects - EU-China, 16+1, or BRI.
The international community expects that these will lead to the implementation of previously announced reforms, especially in the economic sphere, as well as ideas of President Xi from Davos. There are justified expectations that the active Chinese foreign policy will help find solutions to many current global and regional issues.
(The author is the Czech Republic's ambassador to China.)