Why Sino-French ties mat­ter more today

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

On May 7, France will elect a new pres­i­dent, and as has been the case in pre­vi­ous elec­toral cam­paigns, pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates have been fo­cus­ing on do­mes­tic is­sues. Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande’s suc­ces­sor will nev­er­the­less rapidly re­al­ize that, in a glob­al­ized world, do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional is­sues are deeply in­ter­re­lated and that, in a cen­tury in which China has re­gained cen­tral­ity, the re­la­tions be­tween Paris and Beijing not only de­serve the great­est at­ten­tion but also call for strate­gic ac­tions.

China should be on the top of the next French pres­i­dent’s agenda for at least six rea­sons: ne­ces­sity to strengthen the links be­tween China and the Euro­pean Union to bal­ance the tran­spa­cific in­ter­ac­tions, the de­sign of a more ef­fec­tive global gov­er­nance, the ab­so­lute im­per­a­tive of sus­tain­abil­ity, the cre­ation of an AfroEurasian part­ner­ship of pros­per­ity along the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and 21st Cen­tury Mar­itime Silk Road, shared eco­nomic growth and the quest for equilib­rium be­tween a world of ubiq­ui­tous tech­nol­ogy and hu­man dig­nity.

Fol­low­ing the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump as US pres­i­dent, China has de facto be­come the most im­por­tant ex­ter­nal sup­port for Euro­pean in­te­gra­tion. Paris and Beijing have to boost EU-China re­la­tions so their in­ter­ac­tions can con­tinue to weigh in a world whose cen­ter of grav­ity is rapidly shift­ing to­ward the Pa­cific.

In the post-Brexit world, France and China stand as the only two per­ma­nent mem­bers of the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil rep­re­sent­ing the EU and Asia. The syn­er­gies be­tween Paris and Beijing have there­fore a unique role to play in global se­cu­rity is­sues.

A wise po­lit­i­cal com­bi­na­tion be­tween what former French for­eign min­is­ter Lau­rent Fabius called the puis­sance d’in­flu­ence of France, France’s in­flu­en­tial power, and China’s grow­ing cen­tral­ity can con­trib­ute to the progress of global gov­er­nance. The G20 Sum­mit in Ham­burg, Ger­many, in July will be an op­por­tu­nity for the two coun­tries to demon­strate that their strate­gic part­ner­ship is re­ally pro­duc­tive.

On en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, France and China, ar­chi­tects of the 2015 UN Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence’s suc­cess, have to make sure the Paris agree­ment is im­ple­mented de­spite the re­gres­sive at­ti­tude of the new US ad­min­is­tra­tion.

China’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive takes into ac­count the Eurasian re­al­i­ties, but it also in­volves Africa. With its tra­di­tional pres­ence in Africa, France is ide­ally po­si­tioned to co-build an Afro-Eurasian part­ner­ship of pros­per­ity and peace. Such an am­bi­tious and pro-ac­tive ap­proach would also in­tro­duce much needed new dy­nam­ics in Sino-French eco­nomic re­la­tions.

Sino-French eco­nomic re­la­tions are cer­tainly sig­nif­i­cant, but there is still con­sid­er­able space to de­velop trade and in­vest­ments be­tween the two coun­tries.

Fol­low­ing an in­crease in 2015, com­mer­cial ex­changes be­tween the two sides dropped by about 4 per­cent last year. And France’s mar­ket share in China was 1.6 per­cent last year com­pared with 5.5 per­cent for Ger­many.

Be­sides, China and France should also have a re­newed am­bi­tion for cul­ture, and make hu­man­ism a key­stone of their global ap­proach. Cy­berspace and the learn­ing machines do not have to be in con­tra­dic­tion with hu­man­ity, cul­ture and arts, and China and Europe have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to find for hu­mankind the right bal­ance be­tween tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment and hu­man dig­nity.

The mu­tual ap­pre­ci­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries, the vi­brant Chi­nese com­mu­nity in France and the en­tre­pre­neur­ial French com­mu­nity in China con­sti­tute the unique and solid foun­da­tion of Si­noFrench re­la­tions.

Rapid global transformation does not nec­es­sar­ily di­min­ish their im­por­tance, but to re­main mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial and glob­ally sig­nif­i­cant, Paris and Beijing have to fully ap­pre­ci­ate their po­ten­tial and strate­gi­cally un­der­stand the ob­jec­tives to be achieved.

The au­thor is founder of the Europe-China Fo­rum, and the New Silk Road Ini­tia­tive, and di­rec­tor of the Academia Sinica Europaea, China-Europe In­ter­na­tional Busi­ness School.

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