French PM starts 5-day visit

Length of Ayrault’s stay is seen as af­fir­ma­tion of grow­ing re­la­tion­ship

China Daily (Canada) - - WORLD - By ZHOU WA in Bei­jing and LI XIANG in Paris

French Prime Min­is­ter JeanMarc Ayrault be­gan his five­day visit to China on Thurs­day, con­tin­u­ing in­ten­si­fied high­level con­tacts and ex­changes be­tween Paris and Bei­jing to boost po­lit­i­cal trust and deepen eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion.

At the start of his stay in Bei­jing, Ayrault toured the For­bid­den City and de­liv­ered a speech at a Sino-French eco­nomic sym­po­sium, at­tended by hun­dreds of French and Chi­nese en­trepreneurs and busi­ness lead­ers.

He is sched­uled to meet Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang and Chair­man of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee Zhang De­jiang on Fri­day.

The visit once again con­firms France’s in­ten­tion to seek closer in­ter­ac­tion with China’s top lead­er­ship and to re­fresh re­la­tions, French and Chi­nese an­a­lysts said.

Pierre Pic­quart, a China ob­server and pro­fes­sor of geopol­i­tics at the Univer­sity of Paris-VIII, said, “Paris now un­der­stands it is time to have a close re­la­tion­ship with Bei­jing as it is not just a ris­ing power they need to deal with but also an in­dis­pens­able part­ner with whom to build a new world eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial or­der.”

Ding Chun, a pro­fes­sor of Euro­pean stud­ies at Fu­dan Univer­sity in Shang­hai, said, “The French lead­ers now re­al­ize they should re­spect China’s core in­ter­ests if they would like to grab the op­por­tu­ni­ties brought about by China’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

“Ayrault’s visit is one el­e­ment of a se­ries of China vis­its by French of­fi­cials over the past few months, which show China-France ties are get­ting warmer.”

In April, French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande be­came the first head of state from a ma­jor Western na­tion to visit China af­ter its new lead­er­ship took of­fice, mark­ing an im­por­tant land­mark for the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship.

Two weeks ago, French Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pierre Moscovici vis­ited China to lobby for Paris as a lead­ing off­shore ren­minbi trad­ing center in the eu­ro­zone.

For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi

It is not very of­ten we see such a high-level French leader spend such a long time on an of­fi­cial visit to a for­eign coun­try.” PIERRE PIC­QUART PRO­FES­SOR OF GEOPOL­I­TICS, UNIVER­SITY OF PARIS-VIII

vis­ited Paris in late Oc­to­ber and held dis­cus­sions with Hol­lande and his French coun­ter­part, Lau­rent Fabius, on bi­lat­eral is­sues, as well as press­ing in­ter­na­tional is­sues, in­clud­ing the Syr­ian cri­sis and Ira­nian nu­clear is­sue.

Such in­ten­si­fied con­tacts in­di­cate that politi­cians from both coun­tries re­al­ize that greater po­lit­i­cal trust and mu­tual un­der­stand­ing are needed to boost bi­lat­eral ties, ex­perts said.

Hopes are high on both sides to take ad­van­tage of the 50th an­niver­sary of Sino-French diplo­matic re­la­tions in Jan­uary 2014 to el­e­vate the strate­gic part­ner­ship be­tween Bei­jing and Paris to a new level. Xi is also ex­pected to make an of­fi­cial visit to France next year.

De­spite es­tab­lish­ing a com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic part­ner­ship in 2004, China and France have dif­fer­ent un­der­stand­ings and ex­pec­ta­tions of the re­la­tion­ship, said Jiang Shixue, a re­searcher on Euro­pean Stud­ies at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences.

“It is es­sen­tial to make that live up to pub­lic ex­pec­ta­tions by deep­en­ing bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion and ex­changes, par­tic­u­larly in the eco­nomic field,” he said.

Be­side a min­is­te­rial of­fi­cial for for­eign af­fairs, Ayrault is also ac­com­pa­nied by four other min­is­ters in charge of in­dus­try, en­ergy, tourism and agri­cul­ture.

A fast-de­vel­op­ing China brings lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties to the world, and France hopes to grab th­ese to boost its eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, said Wu Baiyi, also a re­searcher in Euro­pean stud­ies with the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences.

France is po­lit­i­cally im­por­tant for China, Wu said. “It plays a very im­por­tant role in Europe, and China-France ties can serve as an ex­am­ple for China’s re­la­tions with other Euro­pean coun­tries.”

The French prime min­is­ter will also travel to Wuhan, the cap­i­tal of Hubei prov­ince, where French en­ter­prises have valu­able busi­ness op­er­a­tions.

Agence France- Presse re­ported on Thurs­day that Bei­jing has ap­proved a lon­gawaited $1.3 bil­lion joint ven­ture, which will be based in Wuhan, be­tween French car­maker Re­nault and China’s Dongfeng, the coun­try’s sec­ond-big­gest car maker.

Ayrault will fin­ish his visit on Satur­day af­ter vis­it­ing nu­clear re­ac­tors in Guang­dong prov­ince to mark the 30th an­niver­sary of Si­noFrench co­op­er­a­tion in the field of civil nu­clear en­ergy.

“It is not very of­ten we see such a high-level French leader spend such a long time on an of­fi­cial visit to a for­eign coun­try,” Pic­quart said.

“The tim­ing of the visit is good as it is a good op­por­tu­nity for the prime min­is­ter to get to know China bet­ter, to take time to un­der­stand the coun­try’s new re­forms and to have di­rect con­tact with the lead­ers and the Chi­nese peo­ple,” he said.

France is now China’s fourth-largest trade part­ner in the EU, be­hind Ger­many, the Nether­lands and the United King­dom. Bi­lat­eral trade in­creased from $13.4 bil­lion in 2003 to $51 bil­lion in 2012. Con­tact the writ­ers at zhouwa@chi­ cn and lix­i­ang@chi­nadaily.


French Prime Min­is­ter Jean-Marc Ayrault (right) tours the For­bid­den City at the start of his visit to China on Thurs­day. Ayrault is on a five-day tour, dur­ing which he will meet Chi­nese lead­ers in Bei­jing and travel to the cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou.

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