President Xi Jinping called for more people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States on Monday as he received visiting Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust for the second time in seven years.
Calling such exchanges a key pillar of the Sino-US relationship in the new era, Xi said China makes education a priority and attaches great importance to exchanges and co-operation with the US in the education, science and technology sectors.
Xi called for closer ties between the nations' universities, adding that he would like to discuss the buildup of the new type of relationship between major countries during his visit to the US in September.
Faust, the first female president in Harvard history, said the university has established long-term co-operation with China and is willing to strengthen exchanges and co-operation in education and science sectors.
Sino-US co-operation in education has played a role in improving public understanding and in the development of the relationship, she said.
Harvard, one of the world's most prestigious universities, has long had relations with leading Chinese institutions, including Peking University and Fudan University.
Faust was scheduled to give a speech at Tsinghua University, Xi's alma mater, on Tuesday.
In March 2008, Xi met Faust during her first visit to China after assuming the presidency of Harvard in 2007. People-to-people exchanges between the two countries have seen progress since then.
In 2009, US President Barack Obama announced the 100,000 Strong Initiative to encourage more US students to pursue studies in China. Michelle Obama, his wife, said last year that China was the fifth-most popular destination for US students.
China is the largest source of foreign students attending US universities, with more than 270,000 students studying there last year.
In another development, Xi met European Parliament President Martin Schulz on Monday at the Great Hall of the People.
Xi said he believed China and Europe could find new opportunities for co-operation in the coming 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), a blueprint for China's development. Schulz said that despite challenges in the relationship, the European side would like to strengthen pragmatic co-operation with China in various fields.
Schulz is leading a delegation in China from Sunday to Wednesday. He will visit Tianjin later and give a speech at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The EU has been China's largest trading partner for years. Two-way trade volume reached more than $615 billion (S$854 billion) last year, up 9.9 per cent from the previous year.
Beijing and Brussels are expected to conclude an investment pact soon, China Daily quoted Schulz as saying earlier this month.