HELSINKI, April 4 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived here Tuesday for a state visit to Finland aimed at advancing bilateral ties, increasing political mutual trust and expanding substantial cooperation.
It is the first visit by a Chinese head of state to this Nordic country in 22 years.
The host country dispatched two fighter jets to escort Xi’s plane after it entered Finland’s airspace.
In a written speech delivered at the airport upon arrival, President Xi first extended congratulations to the Finnish government and people as this year marks the centenary of Finland’s independence.
“Since China and Finland established diplomatic ties 67 years ago, our relationship has maintained a steady and sound development no matter how the international landscape changes,” Xi said.
“Our relationship has become a model of friendly co-existence and mutually-beneficial cooperation between countries that are different in population and size, history and culture, social system and development level,” he noted.
Xi said he looks forward to having in-depth exchanges of views with Finnish leaders on the China-Finland relationship and other issues of mutual concern, thus charting the course for the future development of the bilateral relations.
“I believe that with concerted efforts of both sides, my visit will achieve a complete success,” he added.
During his stay in Helsinki, Xi will hold talks with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, and meet with Prime Minister Juha Sipila and Speaker of the Finnish Parliament Maria Lohela.
China and Finland have enjoyed long-term friendship and cooperation.
Finland was one of the first Western countries to establish diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China, and the first Western nation to sign an intergovernmental trade agreement with China.
Currently, Finland is China’s third largest trading partner in the Nordic region, while China has been Finland’s biggest trading partner in Asia for 14 years.
The two countries upgraded their ties to a future-oriented new-type cooperative partnership in 2013, when Niinisto paid a state visit to China.
The two sides have cooperated in areas such as high technology, clean energy, innovation and Arctic research, and further cooperation on winter sports is expected as China will host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
Xi’s visit to Finland is his first trip to a European Union member state this year, and also his first visit to the Nordic region as president.
“The visit will strengthen bilateral ties, promote cooperation between China and Northern Europe, and foster China-Europe partnerships for peace, growth, reform and civilization,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Chao told reporters ahead of Xi’s trip.
After Finland, the Chinese president will travel to Florida, the United States, for a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday and Friday.
That will be the first meeting between Xi and Trump as the heads of state of the two biggest economies in the world.