Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Croatia on Tuesday to strengthen relations with countries in central and east Europe which China wishes to include more strongly in its One Belt One Road Project.

Li arrived in Zagreb with a 250-strong delegation, continuing the intensive contacts between Beijing and Zagreb of recent years.

On Wednesday, he will meet with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, as well as sign numerous contracts.

“This is a big political message to Croatia and a chance for the Croatian economy,” Plenković told reporters at Zagreb’s airport ahead of Li’s arrival.

On Thursday and Friday, Li will be in Dubrovnik at the eighth summit of 16+1, the format in which he will meet his counterparts from central and east Europe.

Regular summits have enabled smaller countries to build and develop relations with the world economic power with a population of more than 1.3 billion.

In recent years, China has started investing more in central and southeast Europe, considering the 16+1 initiative an integral part of its One Belt One Road project, a contemporary Silk Road and one of the most ambitious projects in the world.

Li arrived in Croatia after an EU-China summit in Brussels.

Croatia’s Minister of Culture Nina Obuljen Koržinek on Tuesday met in Zagreb with Chinese Culture and Tourism Minister Luo Shugang and they discussed the continuation of successful bilateral cooperation in the field of culture and of the opening the 2019 Year of Culture and Tourism, saying the exchange of experts and professionals in culture and their contacts represent a significant advancement in developing cooperation between the two countries.

Apart from cultural activities that will unfold until the end of the year in the area of visual art, music, theatre, and protection of cultural heritage, Obuljen Koržinek and Luo expressed their great satisfaction with concrete results that the Croatian-Chinese Year of Culture and Tourism is bringing, the Ministry of Culture said in a press release.

It was underscored that the exchange that will occur between Croatian and Chinese institutions within the cooperation framework of China + 16 Central and Eastern European countries initiative will contribute to developing contacts via already established theatre, library, festivals, and museums networks.

During the talks, it was underscored that China wishes to open a Chinese Cultural Centre in Zagreb as soon as possible and Croatia’s Culture Ministry fully supports this initiative.

Related to Rijeka 2020 as the European capital of culture which is being organised under the motto, Rijeka – Port of Diversity, the Chinese side expressed interest in connecting Rijeka with Chinese cities known for their rich historical and cultural tradition, which will be a new step toward developing dialogue and cooperation between Croatian and Chinese cities.

The Croatian-Chinese Year of Culture and Tourism will be officially launched with a Chinese exhibition, “Ancient Chinese Scholar-Officials: Painting and Life” which will be presented in Zagreb’s Klović Gallery on Wednesday.

It will be officially opened by Croatia’s and China’s prime ministers Andrej Plenković and Li Keqiang respectively.

The Year of Culture and Tourism will unfold within the framework of bilateral relations between Croatia and China. After Zagreb, the official visit by the high-level Chinese delegation will continue in Dubrovnik on April 11 and 12 at the 16 + 1 summit.

From April to December this year, the two countries will present more than 15 Croatian and Chinese art and cultural programmes.

More news about relations between Croatia and China can be found in the Politics section.