Chinese President Xi Jinping has signed an agreement on a strategic partnership during his visit to the Czech Republic, a sign of improving relations with a country that once was a critic of China's human rights record.

Xi, who was greeted with rare 21 artillery salvos at the Prague Castle, the seat of the presidency, signed the document Tuesday together with his host, President Milos Zeman.

Xi's visit — his only stopover in Europe before flying to the U.S. — is a result of a more business-oriented Czech approach to China than the one that prevailed under the late President Vaclav Havel, a prominent proponent of human rights.

Zeman said business deals to be signed during Xi's visit could bring almost $4 billion of Chinese investment this year.