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Consolidating Sino-French Ties
Cover Stories Series 2013> Consolidating Sino-French Ties
UPDATED: May 6, 2013 NO. 19 MAY 9, 2013
Aiming for Lasting Ties

France is well known to many Chinese as a country with a rich and unique cultural heritage, strong romantic appeal, as well as a solid industrial base. As a traditional Western power, most would agree the country plays a major role in the political and economic arenas of Europe and the world at large.

China and France are two vastly different nations in terms of political and social systems, as well as cultural and ideological values. Nevertheless, they both attach great importance to developing bilateral ties. France was the first among Western powers to establish diplomatic relations with China almost half a century ago. Over the years, at least 17 heads of state and government from both sides have exchanged official visits. As China gains more prominence on the world stage, momentum has built for the two nations to further their relationship. On the one hand, both share the same views and interests on some global or regional issues, while on the other, fast changing multilateral scenarios around the world have necessitated the address of mutual concerns in a cooperative and concerted manner.

With French President Francois Hollande's visit to China in late April, the two countries have consolidated ties in areas such as economy and culture to mutual benefit. It is also hoped this visit will further strengthen China's cooperation with other EU member countries.

Bilateral ties between China and France have not always been a matter of plain sailing, however. The French Government's decisions to sell military equipment to Taiwan in the late 1990s and its support for Tibetan separatist activities in 2008, for instance, were seen as interventions into China's internal affairs, escalating relations to a chilly point. Such unpleasant episodes apart, Sino-French relations have always developed on a sound footing whenever core interests have been considered by either side.

In a nutshell, leaders concerned are expected to take a strategic and long-term perspective in developing lasting state-to-state relations. As China and France prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties in January 2014, the two countries ought to adopt the same approach as former French President Charles de Gaulle who, based on his own broad vision and foresight, afforded diplomatic recognition to China, at a time when the latter found itself antagonized and isolated by the Western world. Time has subsequently proven the wisdom and strategic nature of de Gaulle's decision.

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