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Direct flight a sign of growing ties between Czech Republic, China

By Xinhua (China Daily) Updated: 2016-03-30 08:20

 Direct flight a sign of growing ties between Czech Republic, China

St. Vitus Cathedral is a popular tourist attraction in Prague. An increasing number of Chinese tourists are visiting the Czech Republic. Photos provided to China Daily

A 71-year-old Chinese tourist was waiting to board a plane to his dream destination on Sunday.

Lao Bian was due to take a direct flight from Beijing to Prague, lured not by the city's famous charm or culture, but by the strength of its industry.

"I used to be an automobile mechanic," Lao explained. "I'm impressed by the machinery and cars made in the Czech Republic."

The direct air link between Prague and Beijing, which takes about 10 hours, officially went into operation on Sept 23 last year. It has significantly boosted ties between the two countries and led to their more intensive cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, tourism and healthcare.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he considers this "very good news" for the Czech Republic. It's also good news for Chinese people like Lao, who want to visit the country.

In an article written for the Czech newspaper, Pravo Daily, President Xi Jinping said people-to-people and cultural exchanges between the two countries are flourishing.

"The Czech Republic is an attractive destination for Chinese tourists, who made a record number of visits here in 2015, more than 300,000, making tourism a bright spot in China-Czech cooperation," Xi wrote.

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic has become the second-biggest trading partner of China in the Central and Eastern Europe regions, and China has become the Czech Republic's second-biggest trading partner next to the European Union. Two-way trade between China and the Czech Republic exceeded $11 billion in 2015.

To welcome Xi during his visit, more and more Chinese elements were seen in Prague, such as Chinese flags fluttering along the main streets near Prague Castle, the seat of the President's Office.

Standing above a traffic roundabout by the Vltava River is a huge billboard with a slogan in both Chinese and Czech reading: "Welcome to the Czech Republic".

"The Chinese president's visit to Prague is a very exciting moment and I am very proud that my country is the first and only country he is visiting in Central and Eastern Europe," Czech antiquary Oldrich Hejtmanek told Xinhua News Agency in downtown Prague.

Hejtmanek's gallery has a collection of over 1,000 Chinese works. He said that his clients used to be mostly from China but now the situation is changing.

"More local people have begun to understand and appreciate the Chinese arts. I want to show them, especially young people, how incredible Chinese artworks are," he said.

Hejtmanek said that he "100 percent" believes Xi's visit will be a new start for relations between China and the Czech Republic, as well as with other CEE countries.

China and the then Czechoslovakia established diplomatic relations in October 1949, only five days after the People's Republic of China was founded. After 67 years of time-tested development, bilateral ties have entered a new phase of fast and fruitful development.

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