On Feb. 9, 2010, European Union (EU) Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton was captured in a photograph reading a book titled "What Does China Think?" while waiting for a conference at the European Parliament.
Apparently, Ashton wanted to learn more about China by reading books.
Two years later, Ashton may have little difficulty finding a book on China-related topics in her own country, Britain, since London is hosting its annual book fair with a focus on China.
The three-day 2012 London Book Fair (LBF) opened here on Monday, with China being honored as the Market Focus country for the first time.
The opening ceremony of the largest LBF Market Focus program so far was held on Sunday evening. Chinese and British government officials, British royal family members as well as hundreds of publishers, rights managers and writers from China and around the world participated.
Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said at the ceremony: "The London Book Fair is one of the most important of its kind in the world. Being the country of honor at the London Book Fair, China believes that it will open an important window for foreigners to take a closer look at Chinese culture and provide a prime opportunity for Chinese publishers to learn from international peers."
Li arrived in London Sunday on a four-day official visit to Britain, with an aim to promote cultural exchange and bilateral ties between the two countries.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the two countries and will see London host the Summer Olympics, bringing new opportunities for China and Britain to further their ties, Li said.
"The rich and varied events hosted by China as the country of honor will give a full picture of China's unique culture and its modern development," Li said. "Our friends will have a chance to feel China, know China and understand China."
On the British side, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, said at the ceremony that dialogue is the key to building relationships between countries.
"As both nations are proud of our literary heritages, I think it is a right and proper way to recognize the creative industries in both our countries," he said.
The audience burst into thunderous applause when Li, Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong, Prince Andrew and British Education Secretary Michael Gove together pressed the button symbolizing the official start of the China Market Focus program.
Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, told Xinhua that he regarded the China Market Focus program as very important for both China and Britain, and that China deserves to have this recognition.
"There should be more openness, more sharing of knowledge, benefits and opportunities between our two countries, more working together rather than against each other," he said.
Elizabeth Knup, the British publishing giant Pearson's chief representative in China, said more Chinese books published in English would bring more knowledge of China to the world.
Britain's great dramatist William Shakespeare had a famous saying that "The book is the nourishment in the whole world. Life the inside have no book, seem to have no sunlight; The inside of the intelligence has no book, seem the bird have no wing."
To be held from Monday to Wednesday, the LBF is expected to attract about 25,000 professionals this year.
About 181 Chinese publishers as well as rights managers and celebrities from literary circles will take part in the fair to promote Chinese works.
Some 300 activities will be held during the book fair, in which 57 leading Chinese writers, including Tie Ning, chairwoman of the Chinese Writers Association, as well as the renowned Chinese writers Wang Meng and Mo Yan, will participate with well-known British writers and readers.
The LBF was started in 1971, and was regarded as the world's second largest marketplace for copyrights trading only after the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany.
The Market Focus program was launched in 2004, under which the LBF chooses a single country or region as the country of honor, with an aim to promote trade ties with the chosen country and build long-term business partnerships between the country and the international publishing industry.