02/07/2012 04:00 EST | Updated 04/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Stephen Harper China Trip: Syria, Business Tops Canada Agenda For Four-Day Trip

BEIJING, China - Nihao is the word Chinese use to say hello.

And on the first full day of his trip in China, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hoping they'll learn to say yahoo to Canada.

Chinese youth wearing white cowboy hats and waving Canadian and Chinese flags filled spiral staircases as Harper helped launch a new tourism marketing campaign highlighting the centennial of the Calgary Stampede as a reason for more Chinese to travel to Canada.

It's the first in a series of stops for the prime minister on three-city tour of China in part to promote people-to-people ties.

Canada received Approved Destination Status from China in 2009, which allows Canada to be officially marketed as a destination by Chinese tour operators.

Since then, tourism to Canada has increased by 25 per cent.

"It is one of the few industries in the world whose raw material is goodwill and whose finished product is friendship," Harper said Wednesday at the China Youth Travel Service headquarters.

"And I think the world needs all the friendship and goodwill it can get."

The head of CYTS said the Chinese are already impressed with Canada's landscape and citizens.

"Travel is the best way to build bridges between people and countries," said Zhang Li Jun, through a translator.

At the event, officials were handing out copies of the Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables translated into Mandarin.

Harper's wife Laureen wrote the forward and had signed copies.

In an editorial, a Chinese state newspaper says Harper's visit comes at an important moment in bilateral relations.

But in order to develop them, both sides need to treat each other with respect and appropriately handle sensitive issues, The China Daily said.

"It is hoped the two countries can make their relationship a model for relations between countries of different social systems and modes of development."

Harper is scheduled to meet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing later Wednesday for bilateral talks and the expected signing of an agreement to further economic ties.

But first he and Laureen were to visit a key cultural icon in Beijing, the Temple of Heaven.

Centuries ago, the temple was where emperors flocked to pray for a good harvest.

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