Rival demonstrations greeted Chinese President Xi Jinping as he arrived in Warsaw on Sunday on a three-day visit focused on investment and trade with Poland, the EU’s largest eastern economy.
Holding banners calling on Beijing to “end the persecution of (spiritual group) Falung Gong”, dozens of members of the religious movement banned in China demonstrated along a road leading from the airport to central Warsaw as Xi arrived.
Meanwhile hundreds of Xi’s supporters waving placards welcomed him in front of his hotel. No incidents were reported.
Xi will meet President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo during his trip focused largely on investment in Poland.
The presidents are expected to sign several agreements, including ones doing away with VAT on flights between their countries and boosting Polish food products exports to the Chinese market, among others.
Xi and Duda on Monday attend the New Silk Road Forum 2016 in Warsaw, an international trade fair bringing together Chinese and European entrepreneurs.
The Chinese are interested in Polish food products, electronics, renewable energy technology, auto manufacturing and white goods.
Poland is China’s largest trade partner in the region and in 2015 bilateral trade reached 17.09 billion dollars (15.2 billion euros) according to Chinese figures, but experts note a chronic imbalance in favour of Beijing.
Warsaw will want to boost trade using the “train connection between the town of Lodz in central Poland with Chengdu in Sichuan province to export to China more Polish agricultural products” like milk, meat and apples, Professor Bogdan Goralczyk, an expert at Warsaw University, told AFP.
In 2014 China banned pork imports from Poland, a leading EU exporter of the meat, after Warsaw confirmed African swine fever among wild boars.
Xi and Duda will also meet a freight train rolling into the Polish capital from China on Monday after a 13-day trip from Chengdu in Sichuan province.
Trains began running between China and Poland in 2013, with rail carriers saying the journey lasts 11-14 day, a fraction 40-50 day sea journey.
The rail link — one of the world’s longest — is part of China’s much vaunted “new silk road”, also known as the “Belt and Road” comprising land and sea links facilitating European trade and touted as a revival of the ancient Silk Road trade route.
Xi’s visit to Poland is part of a three-nation tour that kicked off in Serbia on Friday and will also take him to Uzbekistan.
A nation of 38 million people, Poland remains one of the EU’s most vibrant economies, clocking uninterrupted annual growth since it shed communism in 1989.