Toward continuing 'entente cordiale'

Updated: 2016-02-05 08:06

By Zhai Jun(China Daily Europe)

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Toward continuing 'entente cordiale'

Long list of firsts in relationship between China and France pushes for wide-ranging expansion of their collaboration

Last year, as China and France celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, President Xi Jinping paid a visit to what he called "a special friend and win-win partner". Leaders of both countries decided to steer the China-France relationship into a new era of close and lasting comprehensive strategic partnership.

There have been more visits this year, with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visiting France, and French President Francois Hollande and its Prime Minister Manuel Valls visiting China. Both countries have been firm in following the spirit of what is right, holding steadfast to the road of reform that will give their peoples a brighter future.

Looking back on the past half century, independence of action and innovation have been constant drivers in the Sino-French relationship. France was the first Western country to establish ambassadorial-level diplomatic ties with China, the first to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership, the first to work with it in the field of civilian nuclear power, the first to sign government agreement
s on technology, the first to have direct flights to China and the first to host mutually with China a cultural year and cultural centers.

These firsts laid a solid foundation for our comprehensive strategic partnership, and push to form comprehensive, multi-level and wide-ranging collaboration.

China has become not only the largest trade partner of France in Asia but its most promising export market as well. When the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1964, trade between the two was worth just only $100 million; last year average trade every single day was worth $150 million. Chinese companies have opened more than 200 offices and branches in France, and created more than 20,000 job opportunities for French people.

The independence of action and innovation I have already alluded to continued to propel the relationship this year. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius visited China and took part in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the victory of the world anti-fascist war, showing France's recognition of China's contribution as the main battlefield in the East and of its friendship for the Chinese people.

Toward continuing 'entente cordiale'

The two countries have become a community of interests as we have created industry chains and jointly developed third-party markets. Both countries have decided to grant multi-year visas to tourists and businesspeople, and implemented measures to promote the exchange of interns in the workplace, measures that have been welcomed by Chinese and French alike.

The French government has said that in the first 10 months of 2015, the number of Chinese tourists visiting France rose 46 percent compared with last year.

On international issues, too, the two countries have found common cause, and not long ago leaders of both countries signed the China-France Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change.

A Chinese proverb has it that a sesame stalk grows notch by notch, ever higher, and the same principle applies to relations between the two countries, thanks to the independence each has in innovating.

The 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) recently published by the Chinese government foresees a well-off society by 2020, drawing on measures that promote innovation, coordination, green values, openness, inclusiveness and economic sustainability, all the while doubling the size of the economy and personal incomes compared with 2010.

To reduce poverty in line with its aims, China faces a kind of mathematical equation. It needs to add to economic output, to subtract outdated production facilities and make structural transformation, and to multiply development achieved through innovation. It also needs to continue streamlining administration and decentralizing.

Toward continuing 'entente cordiale'

When Hollande was in China recently he said France would likely be a partner as China continues on its path of comprehensive reform. The two countries can combine the strategies "Made in China 2025" and "future industry" and increase collaboration in manufacturing. We can also use complementary advantages and joint research, and manufacture, invest and develop products of "made in both China and France" to third-party markets.

Because France is one of the European Union's main powers, Sino-French relations have ramifications for the EU as a whole. Let's hope that the two countries continue to respect and trust each other, and seek common ground and mutually beneficial collaboration. Indeed, France can be a standard-bearer for relations between China and Europe.

China welcomes France's participation in the Belt and Road Initiative and the promotion of the relationship between the initiative and the European Investment Plan.

China also expects France to push for recognition of China's market economy status in the EU and for it to advocate EU trade negotiations with China in a spirit of friendly dialogue.

At the conference in Paris this month on climate change, China did everything to ensure it would succeed, and provided France strong political support, and stands ever ready to work with the country on the issue. It also fully appreciates that dealing with climate change and adopting sustainable development go hand in hand

China will host the G20 summit for the first time next year. When France hosted the G20 summit in 2011, China was happy to work closely with it in that endeavor, and it looks forward to similar collaboration as it prepares to host the summit.

In such collaboration, and indeed in broader collaboration with France, China is keen to make a contribution to sustainable and balanced economic growth for the world.

I believe that both Chinese and French are people with wisdom, and can work together and open a new chapter of Sino-French friendship, providing power to the economic and social development of the two countries, Europe and the world as a whole.

The author is the Chinese ambassador to France.