President Xi begins Europe visit

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd L), his wife Peng Liyuan (L), Dutch King Willem-Alexander (C), Queen Maxima (2nd R) and former Queen Beatrix (R) pose for photos in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, March 22, 2014. (Xinhua) 

The Netherlands' welcome of Chinese President Xi Jinping's first state visit started well before his plane landed in Amsterdam at noon on Saturday.

Two Royal Netherlands Air Force fighter jets ascended to escort the Chinese aircraft when it entered Dutch airspace.

At the start of his visit, Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan were greeted by Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima at the Schiphol airport. The red carpet was rolled out to a 21-gun salute.

The royal couple also threw a grand welcome reception for their Chinese guests at the Amsterdam royal palace after meeting with the Xi and his wife in the afternoon.

"The Netherlands is China's important cooperation partner in Europe," Xi said in a statement delivered at the airport.

"I hope that my visit will help enhance political mutual trust between China and the Netherlands, expand practical cooperation and deepen the friendship between the two peoples."

It's Xi's first visit to Europe after taking the presidency over a year ago. It is also the first time that a Chinese president visits the Netherlands since the two countries established diplomatic ties over 40 years ago.

The two countries are expected to sign cooperation agreements on agriculture, energy, finance and culture during Xi's current visit.

The Chinese president said that the Netherlands, the gateway to Europe, has long been well connected with China by land, sea and air. It has become China's second largest trading partner among EU countries.

Both China and the Netherlands have actively advocated for and engaged in trade liberalization, and have cooperated closely in promoting China-EU relations, he added.

"I also hope to meet extensively with leaders of my host European countries and EU institutions during this European tour and have an in-depth exchange of views with them," Xi said.

"I am ready to work with the leaders of the EU and its member states to build on past achievements for a brighter future, deepen our cooperation and upgrade China-EU relations across the board, to the benefit of the people of both China and Europe."

The Netherlands is the first leg of Xi's visit to Europe, which will also take him to France, Germany and Belgium between March 22 and April 1.

Xi will attend the third Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague from March 24 to 25, at the invitation of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The Chinese president is scheduled to visit the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on March 27.

Boudewijn Poldermans, senior adviser to the Netherlands Trade Promotion Council's management board, said Xi's visit is historic, and he hopes it can inject new energy into ongoing investment-agreement negotiations between China and the EU.

He said the investment agreement will certainly facilitate and boost investments in both directions and consequently increase trade and investment between the two economies.

"I also hope that this will lead to China being recognized as a market economy by the EU leadership," Poldermans said.

Zhang Qiaozhong, chairman of the Dutch-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, which represents hundreds of overseas Chinese investing in the Netherlands, said Xi's visit will boost mutual understanding and facilitate exchanges between the two economies.

Zhang has urged the leaders from both sides to further recognize the value of overseas Chinese, who have contributed greatly to their host countries.

"And now, those Chinese have started to play roles as bridge builders between the two economies and cultures," said Zhang, whose company specializes in exporting eco-agriculture technologies to China.

The Netherlands has worked hard to ensure a safe weekend state visit and attendance of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit that begins on Monday. Over 50 world leaders will be present at the summit, including Xi and US President Barack Obama.

In the coastal town Noordwijk, about 20 kilometers from The Hague, where the nuclear summit will be held, checkpoints have already been set up about 200 meters from the gates of hotels where leaders will be staying.

Police are stationed at every bus stop along main streets, and others are patrolling in cars and on bikes.

Helicopters are patrolling the skies, while warships are monitoring the seas.


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