Lyon: Xi's first stop in France

Updated: 2014-03-26 01:56

By Li Xiang (China Daily)

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President Xi Jinping's visit to Lyon will be an "excellent moment" for the French city to strengthen its historic links with China and to open up new perspectives in future relations, said Gerard Collomb, the city's mayor.

Xi arrived in Lyon, France's third-largest city, late on Tuesday. He will meet local academics and students at the Sino-French Institute, the first overseas institute established by China.

Xi will also visit the research center of Bio-Merieux, a French biotech company founded by Alain Merieux, one of the pioneers of Sino-French commercial relations.

"I think President Xi chose Lyon as the first stop of his official visit to France because he wanted to pay homage to our city and its people, but above all to celebrate the exceptionally strong relations forged between our city and China," Collomb said.

Lyon's relationship with China dates back to the 16th century, and Lyon is considered the western end of the Silk Road, a major corridor for the textile trade with the East. Lyon is also the sister city of Guangzhou and has maintained ongoing educational and academic exchanges with China.

Collomb said he hoped Xi's visit would open new opportunities for Lyon to develop its relations with China in the fields of investment, tourism and education.

"The transformation of China's economy, which includes the development of private firms — in particular innovation and technology-driven companies — will certainly provide Lyon with new opportunities to attract Chinese firms," he said, noting that Lyon has a competitive lead over other European cities in the fields of life sciences and clean technology.

China accounts for about 8 percent of foreign direct investment in the Rhone-Alpes region, of which Lyon is the capital, and is the region's sixth-largest foreign investor, Collomb said.