Speaking ahead of a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Portugal, Rebelo de Sousa said not only have the Portuguese and Chinese known each other for some 500 years, but also relations between the two countries have grown rapidly in recent decades.
"In the last 40 years, and especially in the last 20 years, relations have grown" in the fields of education, culture and "above all in economic and financial terms," said the Portuguese president.
China and Portugal established diplomatic relations in 1979. In 2005, they elevated their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership. Bilateral trade in 2017 was worth 5.58 billion U.S. dollars.
Chinese companies now have a presence in banking, insurance, infrastructure and energy sectors in Portugal, while Portuguese companies of all sizes have entered the Chinese market and partnered with Chinese companies in trade, industry and civil engineering, Rebelo de Sousa said.
In addition, companies of the two countries have taken advantage of their respective strengths to cooperate in third-party markets.
"We could do more. We should do more, because a good relationship is a relationship that goes in two directions, meaning a Chinese presence in Portugal and a Portuguese presence in China," he said.
The upcoming state visit by Xi is the first by a Chinese head of state to Portugal in eight years.
Rebelo de Sousa said that he is in favor of more cooperation between the two countries in education, which "represents the future, the next generation."
Portugal is an important partner in the Belt and Road Initiative and one of the founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
The Portuguese president said he thinks the Belt and Road Initiative is a long-term plan that holds relevance for Portugal.
"I think we have enabled convergence in this regard," Rebelo de Sousa said, citing the strategic location of Portugal as a gateway to Europe on the sea.
In 2017, the two countries signed documents on cementing a "blue partnership" to strengthen maritime cooperation, which has become a new bright spot in bilateral ties.
There's plenty of room for maritime cooperation, Rebelo de Sousa said.
The Portuguese president said there is trust between Portugal and China due to their diplomatic relations and strong cooperation.
"The visit of President Xi will reinforce and strengthen this trust, which is not only trust, but trust and friendship," he said. "That's why I said relations are excellent, or exceptional, and the outcome of the visit will inevitably be very positive."