Countries make efforts to reinvigorate 'lukewarm' Sino-French ties

By Liu Sha Source:Global Times Published: 2014-3-27 1:13:01

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a ceremony before visiting an exhibition at the French-Chinese Institute of Lyon on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

China will seek to inject new impetus into Sino-French ties during President Xi Jinping's trip to France, as relations between the two world powers have been "too lukewarm" in the past a few years, said Chinese experts.

Xi's visit comes as the two countries celebrate the 50th anniversary of full diplomatic ties this year. 2014 also marks 10 years since the two sides signed a comprehensive strategic partnership pact.

"I have chosen this timing to underscore my desire to review our achievements, renew our friendship and chart our future so as to bring the relationship to a new high," Xi said in a bylined article published in French newspaper Le Figaro Tuesday.

In 1964, France, led by Charles de Gaulle, became the first major Western power to establish diplomatic ties with China, paving the way for wider recognition of the People's Republic of China at a time when there was widespread hostility toward the country from Western powers.

Speaking on Wednesday during a dinner in Lyon's stately town hall, Xi said, "My visit to France ... will allow me to work with President Francois Hollande ... to sum up 50 years of Sino-French relations and to plan the future together," reported AFP.

China and France should explore a new relationship between a rising world power and a developed Western country to deepen the current strategic relations, said Cui Hongjian, a professor of European studies with the China Institute of International Studies.

"This could set a model for China and other European countries," he noted.

Both China and France should admit that the "golden time" when Chairman Mao Zedong and General Charles de Gaulle decided to build diplomatic relations has passed, said Cui. In recent years, the relationship between the two nations had encountered bumps in the road, such as the meeting between former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama.

To maintain the "special friendship," the phrase that Xi used to describe China-France relations, the two must overcome cognitive biases brought by their different mind-sets, he said.

A goal for relations between the two nations should be to bind together their interests, through various means such as erasing bias, and increasing investments, trade and cultural exchanges, he added.

"Many French people, due to inadequate knowledge of Chinese society, have prejudices when talking about human rights in China and the Tibetan question," said Peng Shuyi, an expert on French studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Moreover, Peng said, some French people might not be used to the large gap in economic development between China, a newly rising power, and France, an old developed Western country severely affected by the economic crisis. Some French people would blame Chinese companies, accusing them of improper competition.

Consequently, politicians make use of Chinese social problems to make a fuss and thus win more votes, she noted.

Zhang Jinling, a research fellow from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that as they have encountered more economic problems and witnessed the overall pace of development in China, many politicians realize China should occupy a higher diplomatic position.

He noted that in future, the two nations should find a way to exchange more and understand each other in terms of ideological and political differences.

More than 5,000 people travel between the two countries in a single day and approximately 38,000 Chinese students are studying in France. There are more than 7,000 French students in China, the Xinhua News Agency said.

Meanwhile, China should also attach more importance to France in its diplomatic strategy, since it is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and holds a more independent diplomacy among European countries, said Zhang.

Some difficulties with China-France relations, like ideological differences and the economic development gap, are problems shared by other European countries, so the Sino-French relationship could set a model for Chinese diplomacy in Europe and the experience could also be applied to this, he noted.

Posted in: Diplomacy

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