French polls won’t affect ties with China: experts

By Zhang Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/23 23:28:39

China needs to weigh future options in dealing with EU

An activist wearing the mask of Marine le Pen is taken away by police at a demonstration in Henin Beaumont,France, where far-right leader and presidential candidate Le Pen will vote, during the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday. The election is under heightened security. Photo: AP

The results of the French presidential election won't greatly affect Sino-French relations, but it's time for China to re-examine its options in future dealings with Europe, Chinese analysts said.

France held on Sunday the first round of its presidential election, the most unpredictable one in decades, and is widely believed to have an impact on the future of the European Union (EU). The bloc, who has already been shattered by Brexit and is constantly challenged by US President Donald Trump, would suffer another serious blow if Euroskeptic candidates win in the French election.

"Politically, China supports an integrated Europe and considers the EU an important global player. But in reality, China has to deal with a weakened EU," said Cui Hongjian, a professor at the China Institute of International Studies.

EU countries have been engaging on the intra-zone level, and China has adapted to this trend. For example, China has the 16-plus-one program with central and eastern European countries. It is also planning to cooperate with northern and southern Europe, Cui said.

"Regardless, it is time for China to comprehensively assess the EU's future, since there's no doubt the bloc will undergo reforms and adjustments."

Opinion polls suggest that far-right leader Marine le Pen is one of the favorites in a run-off on May 7 and will most possibly win. She proposes that France abandon the euro, and plans to hold a referendum on withdrawing from the EU.

"I doubt France would eventually leave the EU. Compared with the UK, which has a more independent financial market, France relies on Europe for an integrated market. I think Le Pen might bargain with the EU for greater reforms if she wins the election," Cui said.

No matter who wins, France's policy toward China would largely remain the same, analysts said.

"France is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, it is also a leading EU country, that's why Sino-French ties are important in terms of security and economic cooperation. But the bilateral relationship doesn't have many highlights," said Chen Zhimin, Dean of School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University,.

"In term of economic and trade cooperation, Sino-French ties cannot compare to Sino-German or Sino-British relations," said Cui.

Le Pen might have a more restrained trade policy toward China, but if you see what the UK does after Brexit, France will realize it is impossible to develop its economy and trade without working with China, said Ding Chun, director of Center for European Studies with Fudan University.

"This is similar to US President Donald Trump's policy toward China. China is an economy that cannot be ignored," said Ding.

Newspaper headline: French polls won’t affect ties


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