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President Xi Jinping has expressed hopes that the 2016 "China-US Year of Tourism" will be a success, and he called on the two countries to expand visit exchanges and boost cultural

communication.

The President delivered his best wishes in a congratulatory message to the opening ceremony held in Beijing on Monday.

Xi sent his congratulations to the opening and extended a warm welcome to visiting friends from the United States, hoping that the two countries could "enhance public opinion and the social basis for the development of the China-US relationship".

Both countries enjoy a rich culture and scenic attractions, and people from both countries want to boost mutual standing and promote friendship, Xi said.

Xi noted that cohosting the "China-US Year of Tourism" was an important outcome achieved during his state visit to the US last September, and said more American friends are welcome to visit China.

When speaking at the Third China-US Governors Forum in Seattle on Sept 22 last year, Xi announced that the two countries will hold a tourism year in 2016.

Li Jinzao, head of the China National Tourism Administration, said at the Monday opening ceremony that more than 4.75 million tourist visits were made between China and the US last year, the People's Daily newspaper website reported.

Li said the two countries are aiming for a figure approaching five million this year, and China is ready to take the year as an opportunity to expand opening and investment cooperation for Chinese visitors to the US.

In the congratulatory message on Monday, Xi also observed that 37 years after China and the US established diplomatic relations, the relationship has "achieved historical development".

"In recent years, the two countries have jointly promoted the building of a new type of relationship between major countries, and have conducted productive coordination and cooperation in regards to many major fields and important international and regional issues," Xi said.

This has "not only benefited the two countries and their people but also energetically promoted peace, stability and prosperity in the world", Xi added.

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