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For German chemist Katharina Kohse-Hoinghaus, it was a huge surprise to get an invitation to a key meeting from newly-elected leader Xi Jinping just 20 days after he assumed his new role.
Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, meets a group of foreign experts working in China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Dec 5, 2012. [Wu Zhiyi/China Daily]
She was even more surprised on Wednesday to find that she was among the first group of foreigners Xi met as leader of the Party.
She was one of 20 foreigners from 16 countries invited to a face-to-face discussion with Xi on China's development. Kohse-Hoinghaus, a world-renowned specialist in industrial combustion who has worked for about 10 years in China, said the meeting "demonstrates how serious you take the process of transformation and innovation in cooperation with other countries".
It was the first time that Xi, the newly elected head of the Communist Party of China, met foreigners in this capacity.
Analysts said the meeting conveyed the new leadership's foreign policy blueprint, and sent a strong signal that China cherishes its ties with foreign countries and people, and will continue on its road of opening up and cooperation with the outside world.
"We are open to the world and we want to learn from the world ... We have learned from the past and realize we cannot succeed in our development behind closed doors," Xi said at the meeting.
Foreigners with expertise in their fields have contributed immensely to national development and are called foreign experts in China. They also bridge China and the outside world.
The number of foreign experts has risen from less than 10,000 at the end of the 1980s to around 530,000 by the end of 2011.
In the 80-minute meeting, Xi received a number of proposals, ranging from reforming universities to better accommodate the real needs of society to helping Chinese firms going abroad.