By Guan Kejiang from People’s Daily
Chinese President Xi Jinping, on April 4, will start a three-day state visit to Finland, homeland to Santa Clause. It will be his first trip to northern Europe as the president of China.
Rovaniemi, located on the Arctic Circle in northern part of Finland, is considered as the hometown of Santa Claus. The Santa Claus Village there sometimes receives as much as thousands of visitors everyday.
The post office there would receive hundreds of thousands of cards and mails from more than 200 countries and regions every year. The elves in pointy hats and red dress would collect and send letters for Santa Claus.
This hometown of Santa Claus was also included in Xi’s itinerary during his Finnish visit in 2010.
One of the “elves” named Rita Matila who had once showed Xi the Christmas cards written by Chinese young people, spoke highly of the president’s kindness.
“When he was reading these letters beside me, I can see him touched by the children’s dreams,” Matila said.
When visiting Finland in 2010, Xi read the Christmas cards from China together with the then Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, while talking about their expectation towards the young generation.
Defining mutual understanding, trust and friendship as the foundation for the sustainable development of China-Finland relations, Xi also called on both countries to enhance cultural exchanges, especially the communication between young people, in a bid to pass on the friendship from generation to generation.
Recalling the scene, Vanhanen, current chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Parliament, said that he is confident toward the future of the two countries after a chat with Xi.
Esko Lotvonen, mayor of Rovaniemi and then governor of Lapland province, was among the delegation receiving Xi in 2010. He was impressed by Xi’s modesty and calmness.
“Xi’s special trip to the north of Finland reflects his emphasis on cultural exchanges,” Lotvonen said, adding that Rovaniemi has, as a result, grown from a place rarely known by Chinese people into a hot attraction among Chinese visitors.
“As a way to promote direct communication between both peoples, tourism could greatly enhance understanding between Chinese and Finnish people,” Lotvonen stressed.
Lotvonen hopes that Xi’s upcoming state visit to Finland could propel Finland-China relations for in-depth progress.