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China, Syria steadily promote bilateral cooperation
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The upcoming visit to Syria by Li Changchun, a senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC), will consolidate and promote the traditionally friendly bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

Invited by the ruling Baath Arab Socialist Party, Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC's Central Committee, will visit Syria on April 1-3 to become the highest-level CPC official to visit the country in nearly five years.

Since China and Syria formally established diplomatic relations on August 1, 1956, the two countries have been enjoying mutual understanding and support in the international arena.

While opposing any attempt to undermine the reunification of China, the Syrian government firmly pursues the one-China policy and has no official contacts with the Taiwan authorities.

China, for its part, supports Syria as an important party in the Middle East peace process to play a significant role in regional affairs as well as Syria's legitimate right to restore its sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.

The two countries also share similar views on the human rights issue, resolutely opposing some Western countries' attempts to use it as a pretext to interfere in the internal affairs of developing countries.

Since Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father Hafez al-Assad as Syrian president in July 2000, high-level contacts between the two sides have grown in depth as Syria puts developing a strategic partnership with China as a priority in its diplomatic relations.

In January 2001, Hu Jintao, then vice president of China, paid a visit to Syria, which opened a new chapter in China-Syria relations.

In June 2004, Assad carried out the first visit to China by a Syrian president. During his stay, the two sides signed a package of cooperation agreements which boosted bilateral relations to a new level. Since then, the two countries have maintained high level exchanges in all fields.

In 2006, a series of special festivities were held both in Beijing and Damascus to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Syria.

Meanwhile, both countries attach great importance to their economic and trade cooperation which has also achieved fruitful results.

In 2007, the bilateral trade volume reached 1.87 billion US dollars, up 32.9 percent compared with that in 2006, of which China's exports to Syria reached 1.862 billion dollars, an increase of 37.3 percent than 2006. China has thus become Syria's largest importer.

China and Syria also carried out effective cooperation in various fields such as oil, electricity, transport and telecommunications.

Well-known Chinese enterprises, such as China National Petroleum Corporation, ZTE and Huawei, have contracted important projects in Syria and China's automobile sales in Syria exceed 10,000 vehicles annually.

Furthermore, the China Import and Export Fair in Guangzhou attracts hundreds of Syrian businessmen every year and "Made in China" can be seen everywhere in the Syrian market.

In June 2007, Syria officially recognized China's full market economy status during meetings of the Third Sino-Syrian Joint Committee, which lifted bilateral economic cooperation to new horizons.

During the meetings, the two sides expressed their belief in the great potential of the cooperation, hoping to increase bilateral trade volume to 3 billion dollars in the next five years while endeavoring to balance the two-way trade.

Along with the close political and economic ties, the friendly civil contacts between China and Syria have also been promoted.

In 2005, China and Syria signed a tourism agreement, making Syria a tourist destination for the Chinese people.

Syria, a significant country on the ancient Silk Road with its long history, profound culture and rich exotic flavor, is attracting more and more Chinese tourists.

(Xinhua News Agency March 31, 2008)

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