The Sino-French Connection
Reflections on a half-century of diplomatic relations between China and France
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UPDATED: January 20, 2014 NO. 4 JANUARY 23, 2014
The Sino-French Connection
Reflections on a half-century of diplomatic relations between China and France
By Jiang Shixue

NEGOTIATING HISTORY: Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai (left) meets with former French Prime Minister Edgar Faure (middle) in Beijing in October 1963 to discuss establishing official relations between China and France (CNSPHOTO)

France has made indelible contributions to the promotion of Sino-European relations. For instance, acting as a mediator, France assisted in the establishment of China-Italy official relations in 1970. France also played an important role in promoting the establishment of the Sino-EU comprehensive strategic partnership in 2003.

France has long been committed to ending a European arms embargo imposed on China. When the then French President Jacques Chirac visited Japan in March 2005, he said at a joint press conference with the then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that China's demand that the EU lift its arms embargo was legitimate and reasonable.

However, the efforts and attempts of France and some other EU countries in promoting the end of the European arms embargo on China failed under pressure from the United States.

Certainly, the support for one another on many international issues between China and France are mutually beneficial. The deep advancement of Sino-French relations is in keeping with the diplomatic diversification principle of both countries. It is not only helpful for the development of the relations between China and other Western countries but also conducive to the growth of the relationship between France and emerging economies. For instance, when France began to serve as the rotating presidency of the Group of 20 (G20) in 2010, Sarkozy actively sought the support of China. In August 2011, Sarkozy made a "blitz" visit to China during his trip to France's New Caledonia. International media claimed that the visit was related to the G20 Summit that would be held in France, noting that Paris needed the close cooperation of Beijing in promoting its G20 Summit agenda.

A promising future

As big nations with a strong spirit of independence, both China and France are committed to the prosperity of their nations and the happiness of their people, as well as multilateralism and multipolarity. Those similarities have no doubt laid a solid political basis for the steady advancement of the Sino-French relationship.

Having undergone both positive and negative experiences, leaders from both countries have realized the importance of improving Sino-French relations. During Hollande's latest visit to China last April, Chinese President Xi said that the two sides should strengthen communication and exchanges, respect each other, deepen mutual trust, earnestly accommodate each other's core interests and major concerns and support each other's independent choice of development paths.

"We are looking forward to seeing the development of a new type of China-France comprehensive strategic partnership in the future," Xi said. "We stand ready to work with France through this visit to enhance strategic and political trust, promote practical cooperation across the board, strengthen coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs and take the new type of China-France comprehensive strategic partnership to a new high."

Hollande also said that as two responsible powers, China and France should enhance dialogue and coordination on pressing global issues, working together to promote economic governance and safeguard world peace and prosperity.

China and France are at different stages of development, and the two economies are highly complementary to each other. This also provides a good opportunity for both countries to reach win-win results through economic cooperation. France is now China's fourth largest trade partner in the EU, behind Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. Bilateral trade increased from $13.4 billion in 2003 to $51 billion in 2012, with the bilateral trade volume in the first three quarters in 2013 reaching $37.1 billion. Two-way direct investments are also on the rise, suggesting even greater opportunities for future growth and cooperation.

The author is deputy director at the Institute of European Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Email us at: yanwei@bjreview.com

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