STRASBOURG, France, July 6 (Xinhua) -- European Parliament (EP) President Josep Borrell, who will leave for China on Friday for a seven-day visit, on Wednesday hailed the rapid economic growth of China.

Comparing China to an "awakening lion," Borrell said China has undergone "huge" changes over the past 13 years.

His upcoming visit marks EP President's first visit in the past13 years.

"Napoleon said China is a sleeping lion, but I think now China is a lion awakening," Borrell said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

The EP president said China's economic growth was "miraculous," citing the fact that it had recently overtaken Britain and France to become the fourth largest economy in the world.

"China is producing everything, and it is the manufacturing center of the globe. We Europeans believe China is a lion awakening," said Borrell.

Borrell's last China tour dated back to 1988 when he was a senior official of the Spanish government. Borrell said he was then impressed by Shanghai, and later he read a lot about China, especially those books about Chinese history and culture.

Borrell said he liked Chinese food so much that he even befriended a boss of a Chinese restaurant near his house.

In 2005, Borrell became the first EP President who formally extended the greeting of "happy new year" to the Chinese people through a TV channel, which enjoyed widespread applause in China.

"I was very pleased to have this opportunity to address the Chinese people and to express the EP's best wishes for the Chinese 'year of the dog'," he said. "It is a very important tradition for your people and such gestures will help us to get to know each other better."

Borrell's spokesperson told Xinhua that Borrell's upcoming China tour would last seven days, and he was expected to visit Beijing, Lhasa and Shanghai.

"My objective is to see as much as possible of what the real China is today: the political authorities, the economic transformation," he said.

As for his meeting with Chinese leaders, Borrell said he hopes to talk about "the opportunities that arise from a strengthened relationship with the EU."

He said he also wanted to talk about what both sides could do to "help each other face the challenges of the rapid global transformations," such as the impact on migration, environment, social provision, and the role of parliaments in mapping out solutions to these challenges.

On the relations between China and the European Union (EU), Borrell said the China-EU relations have been strengthened and improved for the recent years.

"Contacts at all levels can only help to promote greater understanding, and an atmosphere of trust in which all questions can be raised," he said.

"Last year relations were even more intense, as we commemorated the 30th anniversary of EU-China diplomatic ties," he added.

Borrell also spoke highly of exchanges of visits between the EP and China's National People Congress (NPC), and of those between the EP party groups and the Communist Party of China.

"The parliamentary aspect of this relationship is a key element of this relationship. Parliamentary discussions have a particular value in promoting understanding between peoples as well as governments," he said.

"Recently a delegation of the European Parliament, led by the Chairman of the legal affairs committee, visited China. Some of the political group chairmen also visited China recently. Such contacts are the best way to deepen the relations between the European Parliament and the NPC," he added.