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China-ROK ties enjoy steady growth
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Chinese President Hu Jintao will start a two-day state visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) on Monday at the invitation of his ROK counterpart Lee Myung-bak.

The visit, which will be Hu's first to Seoul after Lee took office in late February, is expected to offer an opportunity to promote the strategic cooperative partnership as well as the friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries.

China-ROK ties have achieved great progress since the establishment of their diplomatic relations in 1992. Bilateral ties have witnessed rapid and steady growth, with frequent exchange of high-level visits and ever broadening economic cooperation.

In 1998, leaders of the two countries agreed to set up a partnership facing the 21st century. Then two years later, the two sides decided to elevate their friendly cooperation to a new high. Again in July 2003, leaders of the two sides agreed to upgrade their bilateral ties to a "comprehensive and cooperative partnership."

During Lee Myung-bak's Chinese tour in May, the two sides reached consensus on promoting the bilateral ties to a "strategic cooperative partnership" for stronger ties in such fields as foreign affairs, security, economy and culture.

Over the last 16 years, China and the ROK have worked together to develop an all-around partnership and maintained strong economic cooperation on the basis of equality, mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual benefit.

The ROK now ranks third among China's trading partners and fourth among foreign direct investors in China. Meanwhile, China has been ROK's top trading partner, its biggest export and import market and the origin of its biggest trade surplus for years.

Chinese government statistics shows that trade volume between China and the ROK reached a new high of 159.9 billion U.S. dollars in 2007, accounting for 19.9 percent of the ROK's total foreign trade volume.

China-ROK trade has kept an average growth rate of about 25 percent since 1992.

From January to May this year, the two-way trade reached 75.8 billion dollars. If such a momentum continues, the two countries can raise their annual bilateral trade to over 200 billion dollars by 2012, a target mapped out by leaders of the two countries, said some economic experts.

People-to-people exchanges have also played a major role in relations between the two countries. Currently more than 830 flights shuttling between 40 cities in China and the ROK each week, greatly facilitating economic and trade, tourism and cultural exchanges.

In 2007, around 6 million Chinese and ROK citizens visited each others' country, setting a new record in history.

Statistics released by the ROK presidential office showed that 700,000 ROK citizens are living in China while about 530,000 Chinese are studying, working or living in the ROK as of the end of last year.

Cultural exchanges, especially education exchange, have also witnessed steady expansion. By the end of 2007, the number of ROK students in China reached 64,000, making them the largest group among foreign students in China.

Meanwhile, Chinese students in the ROK reached 34,000, accounting for two thirds of the total foreign students in the ROK.

These students are expected to play a leading role in expanding cooperation between the two nations and boost mutual understanding between the two peoples in the future.

The growing number of South Koreans who study the Chinese language and increasing popularity of South Korea's pop culture in China, are indications of the friendly exchanges between the two peoples.

Ahead of Hu's visit, the ROK presidential office said that ROK government places great importance on the development of the ROK-China ties and expects Hu's visit to consolidate and expand bilateral cooperation.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said last Wednesday that China expects Hu's state visit to define the direction of future exchanges and cooperation between Beijing and Seoul, stressing that the visit "will be of great significance to bilateral ties."

Hu is scheduled to arrive in Seoul on Monday. During his two-day stay here, he will meet with ROK President Lee Myung-bak, National Assembly's Speaker Kim Hyong-o, Prime Minister Han Seung-soo and attend a series of events.

(Xinhua News Agency August 25, 2008)

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