Beijing and Paris simultaneously issued the joint communiqué establishing diplomatic ties 50 years ago on January 27, making France the first major Western country to have formal diplomatic relations with China. This notable breakthrough led by then French president Charles de Gaulle is widely known across China and we are grateful even today.
Generally speaking, the Sino-French relationship during the last five decades has been one of the best ties between China and Western nations. Nevertheless the bilateral ties should have generated more glorious achievements beyond the somewhat "normalized" state.
Ever since China adopted the policy of reform and opening-up, Beijing and Paris have been engaged in close cooperation but have also undergone cyclical obstacles. The intricacy in this relationship has shaded the radiance Charles de Gaulle once created. Therefore, whether China-France ties have special strength for future progress is quite blurred.
At the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations, neither China nor France should rest content with plain celebrations. The two are supposed to design more profound and pragmatic plans for bilateral strategic cooperation in the future.
China is a typical newly emerging country while France is an emblematic "old European" nation. We can sense from French public opinion that they hold similar views with other European states toward China. The "gene of Charles de Gaulle," which refers to the foresight to set up a platform between China and Europe, seems nowhere to be found among the majority of the French people.
Perhaps Paris needs another Charles de Gaulle to draw the two countries closer. The new leader should be committed to taking the lead in establishing strategic mutual trust in a real sense, breaking through ideological barriers and striving for brand new ties between the old European continent and the emerging world.
Beijing has plenty to learn from many European nations, in particular technologies and cultural elements. If France can break free from the bondage of prevalent prejudice the Western world maintains toward China and interpret this ascending power in an objective manner, it will likely gain a leading position and blaze a trail in the murky diplomatic relations between China and the Western world.
China was mired in abject poverty when establishing diplomatic ties with France.
However, we have now been enjoying unprecedented development and therefore need a stauncher Western partner to help turn various disputes and conflicts into a new dynamic. The grand diplomacy of the Western world in the 21st century may be themed toward rediscovering China.
The 50th anniversary serves as such an opportunity that will remind people that Charles de Gaulle has done an outstanding job in terms of issues concerning China, against all the then-mainstream voices across the West. Nonetheless, history has proved that he made a wise choice.