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Beijing Review Exclusive
Special> G20 Summit 2012> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: May 14, 2012 NO. 20 MAY 17, 2012
Under New Leadership
François Hollande has to adapt to reality despite his campaign pledges to France
By Xing Hua

Hollande has criticized Sarkozy for accepting the German leadership in the EU, which he said caused France to fall within Europe. He opposed the German-led fiscal treaty for overcoming the EU debt crisis. Hollande claimed that the austerity approach downplays the importance of growth, and he said he would seek to modify the fiscal treaty after taking office. His stance constitutes a challenge for the EU's efforts in tackling the current debt crisis, which worries the EU, especially Germany. How France under Hollande's presidency will interact with Germany and what role France will play in the EU, especially in addressing the current crisis, have created suspense for Europe and the rest of the world.

Hollande pledged to safeguard the maximum French interests in the campaign. Like Sarkozy, Hollande seems not to adapt to the rapid development of newly emerging economies during the process of globalization and has tried to find scapegoats for the current uncompetitive French economy. For example, he has taken a hard-line stance toward the exchange rate of the Chinese currency in the name of "trade balance." Facing public pressure, Hollande also advocates restricting immigration to cater some right-wing voters. But this stance is against his own party's principles and might cause controversy among its left-wing supporters.

Generally, Sarkozy's foreign policy was inclined to be active in international affairs and the EU integration, in hopes to maintain France's position as a major power. Therefore, France has to undertake corresponding responsibilities. In facing the complicated international situation, Hollande has to make his own policy options. Should France continue to join hands with Germany to push the EU integration forward while safeguarding its own interests and international influence? Will France continue aggressive intervention in the Middle East and North African affairs? Should France pursue multilateralism, or be in line with its Western camp in global affairs in the future? All will be big tests for Hollande.

France was the first big Western power that established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, under the administration of President Charles de Gaulle in 1964. The two shared a lot of political principles in common. Both countries pursue policies of national independence, developing modes of their own and opposing hegemony of superpowers. In the last half century, China and France have kept a good strategic partnership though wee differences exist. It is a kind of valuable historical heritage that both sides should cherish. World situations have changed a lot, but the basis for mutual trust and cooperation doesn't reduce at all. As a result, Sino-French relationship returned to track soon after experiencing setbacks caused by the wrongdoing of the French side in the early days of the Sarkozy administration. More proactive efforts to advance Sino-French relationship are expected by the Chinese side for President Hollande. Developing the bilateral relationship on the basis of thinking from the overall situation, reciprocity based on equality, and trying to seek common interests, the Sino-French relationship will benefit people of not only the two countries, but also the whole world.

The author is a research fellow with the China Institute of International Studies

Email us at: yanwei@bjreview.com

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