What is your overall impression of Sino-French relations, as the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries approaches?
Relations between China and France are excellent. The recent official visits were real successes and our strategic partnership is strong. We should put our economic exchanges on the same level as our political relationship. This is a priority for our common future. The 400 friendly events taking place this year will contribute to this.
According to certain media, France is also intending to enter into a currency swap agreement with China, which would allow Paris to become an offshore center for renminbi transactions capable of competing with London. When will this agreement come into being? What do you think about it?
It's an excellent initiative. We have been working on it very seriously. The Bank of China, which already has a presence in Paris, has made some interesting suggestions. I hope that this will be one of the good pieces of news to come out of the 50th anniversary.
How do you understand the notion of the "Chinese dream," put forward by the new leadership?
It is the ambition carried by the new Chinese Government. For us it is the pursuit of "reform and opening up" and at the same time it takes into account the emergence in China of a "civil society." I see the idea of "inclusive growth" that we discussed at the Boao Forum in the presence of President Xi Jinping.
How has this concept been presented in France?
Dreams are always a powerful idea in romantic countries. We fully understand that unity is a strong value in Chinese politics, so it is necessary to put forward a vision; a concept that rallies the people together. The Chinese dream has been well received in France because it is a legitimate, non-aggresive ambition. There is a certain continuity between the Chinese dream and the concept of a "peaceful rise," which is dear to the Chinese people
Can we compare the "Chinese dream" to the "Thirty Glorious Years" in France?
It is difficult to compare something in the future to something in the past. However, there are things in common: the growth, the definition of a social model and the rationalization of public action or the emergence of a civil society.
In 2009, you launched a Chinese blog on ifeng.com. You also use Weibo to communicate with Chinese internet users directly. What prompted you to open an account? Do you have any interesting anecdotes that you can tell us?
I pay a lot of attention to Chinese society. It will have a bigger influence on the world in the future. I am trying to explain to young people in France that their future will be shared with Asia, just like there was a piece of America in the lives of my generation. The internet provides a good view of the reality of Chinese society. I particularly appreciate the sensibility and the humor of Chinese internet users.
If you hadn't been a politician, what job would you have liked to do?
I would probably have started a business. I had a business school education. I would have definitely opened an office in China and I would travel a lot between "my" two countries. Perhaps I would have bought tea and sold wine...
Can you sum up your career and your experience with China in a few key words?
I spent a third of my professional life working in business, a third was dedicated to regional and national responsibilities (as a regional president and as prime minister,) and I mostly dedicated the final third to international affairs (as vice-president of the senate responsible for the international delegation, the Boao Forum and the France-China Committee.)
Last year I visited China six times. I am now familiar with many regions of China. I went on a cruise on the Yangtze River with my wife, who is learning Chinese. I am no longer able to count the number of times I have visited China. I am always preparing for the next trip.
Can you say something in honor of the twin cities between China and France?
After I was elected president of the Poitou-Charentes Region (Cognac Country), I built a relationship with Nanning in Guangxi, which was very helpful. There are several relationships between French and Chinese cities that are working very well at the moment. It is a good way to cooperate. The annual roundtable of Chinese and French mayors will take place this spring in Lille. Decentralized cooperation is a modern form of partnership.
Do you have any final words for our readers?
The French and the Chinese have a lot of things in common: "We like people who like us." There is a kinship between Confucius and French humanism.