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France - China Policy

From the majestic but distant relations between the Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) and King Louis XIV (1638-1715), to the collaboration between Zuo Zongtang (1812-1885) and Prosper Giquel (1835-1886), or the action in the field of education by Li Shizeng (1881-1973) and Edouard Herriot (1872-1957), Chinese Francophiles always responded to the call of French Sinophiles.

The United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada imposed sanctions on Chinese officials on 22 March 2021 for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, in the first such coordinated Western action against Beijing under new U.S President Joe Biden. France's foreign ministry summoned China's ambassador over repeated insults and threats aimed at French lawmakers and a researcher and a decision by Beijing to sanction officials across the European Union. "The words of the Chinese Embassy in France and the actions against European elected officials, researchers and diplomats are inadmissible,' Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian wrote. "I requested that the Chinese ambassador be summoned to remind him firmly of these messages."

Lu, an envoy known for his aggressive and outspoken comments on the embassy's Twitter account, had targeted several people recently including Antoine Bondaz, a China specialist at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) think-tank. Lu he derided Bondaz as a "small-time hoodlum," a "crazed hyena" and "ideological troll" with "anti-Chinese" stances after he complained about Chinese pressure on French lawmakers hoping to visit Taiwan.

The foreign ministry said it would remind Lu of "the elementary rules as set out by the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations ... the embassy is requested to conform strictly with them." The Ministry;s statement noted that "The insults against independent researchers and the controversy with French elected officials are unacceptable and do not have any place in the relations that the Embassy of China is tasked with helping to develop between France and China. "

The Chinese ambassador to France won widespread support from the Chinese public. The tough rhetoric of Lu on matters related to China's core interests has been widely applauded by the Chinese public, and many Chinese netizens praised Lu for doing a good job in defending China, adding that Chinese ambassadors should stand up firmly for China's core interests. "This should be the way our diplomats work," a Chinese netizen said in a post on China's Twitter-like Weibo. Another said, "Finally, they [Chinese diplomats] are getting tougher."

In response to some online criticism about the embassy engaging in "wolf warrior diplomacy," the Chinese Embassy in France said in an article on 22 March 2021, "If there are wolf warriors, it is because there are too many mad dogs, including some crazy dogs disguised as academics and media."

China is not seeking revenge, it is seeking the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, Lu Shaye, Chinese Ambassador to France, said in an interview with French public national television channel France 2 on 27 February 2021, in response to a question on the so-called Wolf Warrior style diplomacy of China. "I am a Chinese diplomat," Lu said when asked in the interview whether he is also a "wolf warrior." Lu noted that, the so-called Wolf Warrior diplomacy, which is believed to be a more aggressive and combative diplomatic style, is not defined by China, but a label that the others have put on China.

China's diplomacy always keeps pace with the times, Lu noted. The West is not adapted to the current style of China's diplomacy as they were used to China not responding to their attacks in the past. The situation has changed. But what China is doing is just to respond to attacks from the other side, attacks from Westerners, he stressed in the interview. When asked whether China is seeking revenge for being aggressive in some aspects, Lu noted what China is seeking is the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, instead of seeking revenge, after seeing a historical regression and being ravaged by Western powers in the past 200 years.

The recognition of the People's Republic of China on January 27, 1964 by France was the starting point for official relations. In 1958, the Fifth Republic was established in France and General de Gaulle was back in office, pursued an independent foreign policy and attached greater importance to enhancing relations with China. Authorized by General de Gaulle, former French Premier Edgar Faure came to China in October 1963, carrying with him a hand-written letter from the General and on behalf of the General, he would discuss Sino-French relations with Chinese leaders. Premier Zhou Enlai and Foreign Minister Chen Yi held talks with Me. Faure who said that President de Gaulle hoped to hold talks with the Chinese leaders on relations between the two countries and that the General wanted him to conduct talks with the Chinese leaders on his behalf; quite a lot of problems have been caused by the fact that France did not at first recognize the People's Republic of China and maintained, instead, relations with Chiang Kai-shek. France became the first big country in the west to establish formal diplomatic relations with China. This was a major breakthrough in China's efforts to strengthen its relations with Western Europe and another heavy blow to the U.S. policy of isolating China.

In the 1960s, the confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, the two superpowers at the time, impacted international relations. At the same time, it was a good chance for some countries to regain their independence, in keeping with the needs of the times. Both China and France began rejuvenating and reforming their policies. Under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong, China pursued an independent foreign policy, seeking to establish more friendly relationships on the basis of mutual respect and understanding. General Charles de Gaulle, the first President of the Fifth French Republic, also proposed a number of initiatives that shook the U.S.-centered hegemonic order and broke free from the outdated curbs on foreign relations. Though separated by geographical distance and belonging to different camps during the Cold War, China and France began to get closer.

A statement attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) that he probably never uttered but has become an inept cliche goes: "When China wakes, the world will shake." In a news conference on Sept 9, 1965, former French president Charles de Gaulle did present a more nuanced view: "A fact of considerable significance is at work and is reshaping the world: China's very deep transformation puts her in a position to have a global leading role."

Many of de Gaulle's successors, such as Valery Giscard d'Estaing, Franois Mitterrand and Jacques Ren Chirac, attached great importance to relations with China. Chirac's administration maintained the mutual trust which grew out of the establishment of diplomatic relations with China and even enhanced it under the new international situation. He made a positive appraisal of China's development and believed it had infinite prospects. France hoped to maintain its status as a major power through cooperation with China. Chirac persuaded EU member countries not to take the lead in anti-China proposals at the UN Commission on Human Rights, and advocated acceptance of China's participation in the Group of Seven. In spite of the U.S. blockade on arms sales to China and the intransigence of some EU allies, France advocated lifting the embargo. It hoped to eliminate the discrimination against China and clear all obstacles to China-EU cooperation.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy decided France should rejoin NATO 43 years after it had left the organization under de Gaulle. Under Sarkozy, France began increasingly leaning toward the West and drifting from the tradition of maintaining mutual strategic trust with China. Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama and Tibetan separatists' disturbing of the torch relay of the Beijing Olympic Games in Paris soured bilateral relations.

In mid-2008 the Beijing Tourism Bureau ordered all Beijing-based travel agencies to remove brochures and catalogues advertising trips to France, and to stop selling packages. The order has resulted in a two-thirds drop in visa applications at the French Embassy in Beijing, The drop in travel to France is a result of Beijing officials' anger at the Paris City Government for granting the Dalai Lama honorary citizenship and a reaction to the well-publicized pro-Tibet protests at the Paris leg of the Olympic Torch Relay. Despite French Embassy and EU Commission protests to both the Beijing and National Tourism Bureaus, the Beijing Tourism Bureau denied that any official boycott exists and had taken no remedial action.

Although Sarkozy re-examined France's common strategies with China and tried to repair the bilateral relations, his efforts to maintain the good traditions between the two countries were weak. Sarkozy had long made both public and private statements that "any change in status quo in the Taiwan Strait would be a mistake."

The Franco-Chinese relationship was elevated to the rank of "global strategic partnership" in 2004. In 2013, bilateral relations between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of France made fresh progress. The two countries had frequent high-level exchanges, stronger business cooperation, expanding cultural and people-to-people exchanges and close communication and coordination on major international and regional issues. The two countries maintained frequent high-level exchanges. The French president and prime minister visited China within the same calendar year for the first time. Leaders of the two countries stayed in close communication on bilateral relations and international and regional hotspot issues through telephone conversations and exchanges of correspondence.

From 25 to 26 April 2013, French President Hollande paid a state visit to China. President Xi held talks with him and Premier Li Keqiang and NPC Chairman Zhang Dejiang met with him separately. The two presidents reached important agreement on the future growth of bilateral relations and decided to advance the China-France comprehensive strategic partnership on the basis of mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

On 10 January 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron wrapped up his first state visit to China, which began three days earlier in Xi'an, an ancient capital and a city rich in history and culture, in northwest China's Shaanxi Province. In a speech delivered to an audience of academics, students and businesspeople during his stay in the city, the French president said Europe should take part in the Belt and Road Initiative and thus share in the benefits of a global trade network with China. Unlike Britain and Germany, France was in fact not one of the European countries to have shown an interest in the Belt and Road Initiative when it was first proposed in 2013. The Macron administration, however, brought with it a new approach to the French leadership.

Macron's China policy had been gaining momentum since he took office and during his campaign the presidential hopeful promised to further the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and France. On many occasions since becoming president too, Macron expressed willingness to enhance coordination with China on international affairs.

On 26 March 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, agreed to carry forward the high-level ties between the two countries and forge a more solid, stable and vibrant China-France comprehensive strategic partnership on a new starting point in history. The consensus was reached during the talks between Xi and Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris. The two sides should insist on respecting and accommodating each other's core interests and major concerns, pursue harmony in diversity, and seek common ground while reserving differences, Xi said.

China and France are both adherents of multi-polarity and multilateral cooperation in global governance. They also advocate safeguarding a multilateral international system with the UN at its core, strengthening the role of the G20 in global economic governance and maintaining a free and open global trading and investment system as well.

The strategic dialogue (last session January 23-24, 2019), created in 2001, addresses all areas of cooperation and aims to strengthen consultation on global issues, such as the reform of global economic governance and climate change, as well as on regional crises. The high-level economic and financial dialogue (last session on December 7, 2018), created in 2013, addresses all economic issues. The high-level dialogue on human exchanges (last session on November 26, 2017), created in 2014, concerns academic, scientific, exchanges.

The President of the Republic made his first state visit to China from January 8 to 10, 2018. This visit was an opportunity to set the main axes of the Franco-Chinese partnership for the coming years. The Prime Minister's visits to China from June 22 to 25, 2018, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs from September 13 to 14, 2018 (25th Joint Committee on Trade and Investment), the Minister of Agriculture for November 3 to 6, 2018 (Shanghai Fair) and the Minister of Ecological and Solidarity Transition on November 19, 2018 (launch of the Franco-Chinese year of the environment) enabled progress to be made in the implementation of this news directions.

Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to France in March 2014 and an official visit in November 2015 on the sidelines of the Paris Climate Conference. Prime Minister Li Keqiang paid an official visit in June and July 2015. The State Affairs Advisor and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Wang Yi, visited France on May 16, 2018, then on 23-24 January 2019 (15th session of the Strategic Dialogue). French President Emmanuel Macron paid a state visit to China from November 4 to 6, 2019 and attended the second China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai.

At the economic level, rebalancing exchanges "from the top" constitutes a priority objective, recalled during the presidential visit. China is France's 7th customer (the French market share in China is 1.4%) and its 2nd supplier (the Chinese market share in France is 9%). Trade remains marked by a strong imbalance: China is France's 1st bilateral trade deficit (EUR 29.2 billion in 2018) ahead of Germany. Cross-investments are booming. The French presence in China is long-standing (EUR 25 billion in FDI in stock in 2017) and concerns all sectors: agrifood, industry, transport, urban development, mass distribution, financial services. More than 1,100 companies are present in China, representing 570,000 jobs. Chinese investments in France have experienced strong growth in recent years (EUR 6 billion in stock in 2017). 700 subsidiaries of Chinese and Hong Kong companies are established there, employing 45,000 people.

France supports Chinese investments that create jobs and are part of balanced long-term partnerships. The economic partnership is reflected in the consolidation of structuring industrial cooperation in the civil nuclear and aeronautical industries (Hinkley Point C, Taishan EPR, cooperation in reprocessing-recycling of nuclear waste; assembly line of the A320 and completion of the A330 in Tianjin) and their extension to new sectors (sustainable development, health, aging economy, innovation, financial services in particular).

France is also actively engaged in technology cooperation with China, especially in 5G. The French president said in May 2019 that the country supports Chinese telecoms company Huawei in building its 5G network infrastructure. Huawei launched a new smartphone in Paris on 17 October 2019.

Scientific and technological cooperation is focused on the fight against emerging infectious diseases (creation of a Pasteur Institute in Shanghai and a P4 laboratory in Wuhan accredited in January 2017) and space (launch of the CFOSat satellite on October 29, 2018 and SVOM project). More than 3,000 researchers from the two countries from 600 research units cooperate in around sixty joint research structures. In the field of artistic and cultural exchanges, the "Crossings" festival has become the largest foreign festival in China. In terms of university cooperation, 37,000 Chinese students carry out student mobility in France (3rd contingent of foreign students) for more than 10,000 French students in China (1st European contingent). Cooperation on the environment and sustainable development pursues three priorities: climate change, sustainable urban development and the issue of water. AFD has worked in China since 2004 (24 projects). 140 decentralized cooperation projects today bring together 60 French local authorities and 47 Chinese local authorities, which make it possible to deal with concrete subjects of common interest.

France regularly expresses its concerns regarding the human rights situation in China during high-level talks. It expresses its concerns publicly, in particular to the United Nations Human Rights Council, concerning in particular the death penalty, freedom of expression, religion and conscience, the situation in Tibet and Xinjiang as well as cases individual. France takes an active part in the EU-China human rights dialogue, the last session of which was held in June 2018.

With nearly 20,000 nationals , including nearly 14,000 registered in the register of the Consulate General, Hong Kong is the second French city in Asia, just behind Singapore and hosts 45% of French people in China. Bilateral trade flows between France and Hong Kong reached 5.6 billion euros in 2016. Hong Kong is France's leading trade surplus in the world after the United Kingdom ( 6.9 billion in 2017) .

Thanks to the transit to China, French exports to Hong Kong have almost doubled in 10 years (aeronautics, wines, pharmaceuticals). France is the 14th foreign investor in Hong Kong and the 2nd European investor. 800 companies including 373 subsidiaries of French companies and 92 regional headquarters are present in Hong Kong, achieving an estimated turnover of 14.5 billion. France hosts 70 Hong Kong companies (7,000 employees).

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Page last modified: 23-03-2021 18:48:44 ZULU