WARSAW, June 19, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and his wife Peng Liyuan wave as they arrive at the airport in Warsaw, Poland, June 19, 2016. Xi Jinping arrived in Warsaw Sunday for a state visit to Poland. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)
WARSAW, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Poland Sunday on the second stop of his three-nation Eurasia tour aimed at cementing bilateral ties and strengthening China's relations with Europe.
It is the first state visit by a Chinese head of state to Poland in 12 years. Before visiting Poland, Xi visited Serbia from June 17 to June 19.
Poland sent fighter jets to escort Xi's plane when it entered the country's airspace. Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan were greeted by Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski at the airport.
Upon his arrival, Xi extended sincere greetings and best wishes to the Polish people.
Noting that Poland is among the first countries to recognize and establish diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China, Xi said in a written statement that the two countries have always treated each other with respect and equality over the past 67 years since they forged diplomatic ties in October 1949.
China attaches great importance to the ties with Poland and hopes to consolidate traditional friendship, expand cooperation in all fields and lift the bilateral relations to a new height, according to Xi.
During his stay in Warsaw, Xi is scheduled to hold talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda on enhancement of bilateral ties.
He will also meet with Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and attend a luncheon hosted by Polish parliamentary leaders.
The two sides are expected to sign agreements in areas such as finance, civil aviation, science and technology, and education.
Since the two countries lifted their bilateral ties to strategic partnership in 2011, their relations have been on a fast track.
With bilateral trade reaching 17.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, Poland has been China's largest trading partner in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), while China has been Poland's largest trading partner in Asia.
More than 60,000 Chinese tourists travelled to Poland last year, up from 7,700 in 2004. Five Confucius Institutes have been set up in the country.
"China-Poland ties are at a historical high," said Chinese ambassador to Poland Xu Jian.
The speaker of the lower house of the Polish parliament attended China's V-Day celebrations in Beijing in September 2015. Duda paid a state visit to China in November last year.
When meeting with Xi, Duda vowed that his country would help boost ties between Europe and China and participate in the Belt and Road Initiative.
During his stay in China, the two countries inked a memorandum of understanding on jointly promoting the initiative.
Proposed by Xi in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt that links China with Europe through Central and Western Asia by inland routes and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road connecting China with Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe by sea routes.
Xi's visit to Poland is expected to help further align the Belt and Road Initiative with Poland's development plans and promote Poland's role as an engine to boost China-CEE cooperation.
Home to some of the world's greatest personalities including mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie and pianist Frederic Chopin, Poland is an important country in the European Union (EU) and the biggest country in the CEE region in terms of land area, population and economic scale.
"Poland will play an irreplaceable role in the Belt and Road Initiative and the '16+1' cooperation," Xu said, referring to the cooperation between the CEE countries and China.
Poland sits in the center of Europe, and many of the China-Europe freight trains pass through the country. Chinese experts believe that Poland has a potentially big role to play as a logistic hub between China and the CEE region as well as between China and Europe.
As the only CEE founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the host of the first China-CEE leaders' meeting in 2012, Poland has shown great enthusiasm in enhancing inter-connectivity between the CEE region and China and participating in the Belt and Road Initiative.
The Belt and Road Initiative has attracted global attention and inspired not only Poland but also other countries along the way, Polish scholar Radek Pyffel said.
With its geographical advantages, Poland has a significant role to play in the Belt and Road Initiative, Pyffel said, adding that the initiative will help Chinese enterprises enter the Polish market and vice versa.
After visiting Poland, Xi is to travel to Uzbekistan for a state visit and attend a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.