Xi-Macron phone call sets tone for China-France cooperation ahead of key climate summit
Published: Oct 26, 2021 08:30 PM Updated: Oct 27, 2021 02:18 AM
China France File photo: cnsphoto

File Photo: cnsphoto

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday held a phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, in which Xi specified a wide range of fields for cooperation, stressed that multiple major international events have demonstrated that France is correct in advocating the strategic autonomy of the European Union (EU) and expressed hope that France would play a positive role in China-EU relations. 

Observers noted the timing of Tuesday's phone call is significant and while Chinese and French leaders have kept close communication over the past two years, a phone conversation ahead of some key multilateral events, including the G20 summit and the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, can push forward constructive and practical cooperation on those events.

Xi said that since last year, he and Macron have maintained contact in various ways, and the important consensuses they reached on bilateral relations are being effectively implemented with important progress already made.

Noting that the international situation is changing rapidly, he said he and Macron maintaining timely communication and coordination on major issues will help maintain the direction of the China-France relationship and inject more stability into the world.

China and the EU need to continue high-level communication and dialogue, enhance mutual understanding and trust, and reduce misunderstandings and misjudgments, Xi said. 

The multiple major international events of late have once again demonstrated that France is correct in advocating the strategic autonomy of the EU, Xi said. 

The two sides also should properly manage differences, and strengthen political guidance for China-EU ties, so as to ensure steady and sustained development of bilateral relations, Xi added.

Cui Hongjian, Director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday that both sides are expected to push forward constructive cooperation despite the complexity in China-EU relations. 

Amid the major changes in and outside the EU, the first half of 2022 will be crucial for both France and the bloc with the French presidential election and France taking over presidency of the Council of the EU, Cui said.  

Where is the EU's future? How do France and the EU manifest their autonomy? Given the backdrop of those questions, the phone conversation has been made at a key point, Cui said, noting that China also hopes Macron can lead France and influence the EU on developing sound relations with China.  

China-EU relations have witnessed a downward spiral in recent months. The European Parliament voted to freeze the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) in May, putting the brakes on ratifying the massive deal that is envisioned to assist the 27-nation bloc's economic recovery amid lingering COVID-19 woes. In March, China and the EU exchanged sanctions on some individuals and entities after the EU provoked China over Xinjiang under a human rights banner.

Analysts said despite some anti-China radical forces in the EU, cooperation between China and the EU should always been the mainstream and there are a lot of areas the two sides can work together bilaterally or multilaterally. 

Xi stressed that China and France, on condition of effective epidemic prevention and control, should advance relevant cooperation, consolidate cooperation in such traditional areas as civil nuclear energy, aviation and aerospace, and expand cooperation in such new fields as artificial intelligence, biopharmacy and ocean affairs.

China, he said, is ready to work with France to continue cooperation on biodiversity conservation, deepen green cooperation, implement the Global Development Initiative, and carry out tripartite cooperation in Africa and other regions.

China and France also need to support each other in hosting the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games, he added.

He suggested that the two sides focus on the needs of their enterprises and people, further tap their cooperation potential in such areas as connectivity, digital technology, environmental protection, scientific and technological innovation and health care, and expand the scope of China-EU cooperation.

In addition to traditional areas of cooperation, both sides were trying to expand the scope of cooperation but it was deferred by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is urgent to resume and advance cooperation, Cui said. 

For cooperation on climate change, the implementation of the Paris Agreement will be at the center. Macron has attached great importance to multilateral diplomacy and international cooperation on climate, and he wants to ensure France and the Europe's role in coping with climate change and green affairs via implementation of the protocol, experts said. 

The cooperation will work toward ensure success at the COP26. The key is that relevant parties should jointly fulfill pledges of the Paris Agreement including the funding assistance by developed countries, how to realize carbon reduction goals and how to help developing countries on carbon reduction, experts said. 

In the long term, coping with climate change is related to the energy transition and green economy. All economies are facing energy problems to different extent, on which China and France have great potential to coordinate and cooperate to ensure the energy security and advance the transition, experts noted.

Macron congratulated China's successful holding of the COP15, saying France has always been committed to pushing forward EU-China relations in a constructive way, managing and addressing differences through dialogue at different levels and deepening cooperation on trade, climate change and biodiversity protection. 

France hopes to enhance coordination with China on the G20 summit in Italy and the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. France is willing to push forward more fruits in cooperation with China and hopes the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment takes effect soon, Macron said.

Macron said France supports China's successfully hosting of the Winter Olympics and expects to continue close communications with Xi on bilateral relations, China-EU relations and other major topics of shared concern. 

Experts also warned about the complexity of public opinion in France which intensified ahead of the election with louder voices attacking China on topics like human rights. It is a difficult situation that France needs to overcome to ensure a conducive atmosphere for the stable development of bilateral relations. 

It tests France's wisdom on how to balance its relations with China and its strategic ambitions involving other countries, Cui said, citing as examples France's ambition in the Indo-Pacific, the frustration with AUKUS and the potential enhanced coordination with the US.