Luminous China-France relations set tone for EU, exemplify independence and mutually beneficial cooperation: envoy
Promising future
Published: Jan 24, 2024 07:30 PM
Paris, France Photo: VCG

Paris, France Photo: VCG

Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye  Photo: VCG

Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:
Sixty years ago, on January 27, 1964, the Xinhua News Agency and Agence France-Presse simultaneously issued a joint statement, making France the first major Western power to establish diplomatic relations with People's Republic of China. Looking back, what lessons can the development of China-France relations offer to Western countries in their relations with China? Looking forward, in a world of intense geopolitical turmoil, how can China and France cooperate to jointly maintain global security?

Global Times reporters Chen Qingqing and Bai Yunyi (GT) recently interviewed Lu Shaye (Lu), the Chinese Ambassador to France, on these questions. The ambassador said that over the last 60 years, China-France relations have consistently led the relations between China and major Western powers because both sides have an independent and autonomous initial intention, an enterprising ambition, and a heart for equality and mutual learning. He also stated that France is a core country in the European Union, and China-France relations are an important part and a powerful engine of China-Europe relations. If China and Europe join hands, a "new Cold War" will not materialize.

GT: January 27, 2024 marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and France. What significant achievements do you think have been made in China-France relations over the last 60 years? What are your expectations for the future development of the relationship?

Sixty years ago, China and France made a historic decision to establish diplomatic relations, breaking through the barriers of the Cold War. Over the last six decades, mutual political trust between the two sides has continuously been strengthened, and practical cooperation in economic, technological, and cultural fields has yielded fruitful results. Communication and coordination in international affairs have become more effective, bringing tangible benefits to the people of both countries and injecting continuous stability and positive energy into the world. 

At present, the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and France adheres to the broad direction of stability, mutual benefit, exploration, and upward progress. Since the transition of China's pandemic prevention and control measures, the momentum has been strong, with high-level exchanges highlighting various achievements, and continuous dialogues in various fields, leading to a comprehensive restart of interactions across all areas.

As China-France relations approach their 60th anniversary, we stand at a new historical starting point. China is willing to continue the tradition with France, looking toward the future. We aim to seize the opportunity of the 60th anniversary and the Cultural and Tourism Year series of events to intensify high-level interactions, deepen practical cooperation in various fields, and infuse China-France relations with richer contemporary significance.

GT: What insights do you think the development of China-France relations can offer to other Western countries in developing their relations with China?

Over the last 60 years, China-France relations have been distinctive for their strategic, global, and contemporary significance, consistently leading the way in China's relations with Western powers, meriting reflection and summary.

First is the original intention of independence and autonomy. Whether it was breaking through the ice of the Cold War 60 years ago or staunchly opposing unilateralism, bloc politics, and the "decoupling and supply chain disruption" trend 60 years later, the traditions of the Chinese and French nations in pursuing independence and autonomy have remained unchanged.

Second is the ambitious pioneering and enterprising spirit. From being the first to establish a comprehensive partnership to initiating strategic dialogues; from being the first to set up cultural centers reciprocally to organizing cultural years; from opening the first civil aviation route between the East and West, to being the earliest in civilian nuclear energy cooperation and joint exploration of third-party markets, China and France have been at the forefront, creating many "firsts" worthy of being recorded in history.

Third is the inclusive spirit of equality and mutual learning. The different social systems, development stages, and historical cultures of China and France have not hindered mutual understanding and exchanges. Instead, these differences have become an important driving force for mutual respect, mutual learning, and mutually beneficial cooperation, aligning with the contemporary trend of multilateralism and a multipolar world.

GT: What role do you think China-France relations play in the context of China-Europe relations? How do you view the role of China and France in strengthening China-Europe cooperation?

: France is a core major country in the European Union, and China-France relations are a crucial link and a powerful engine in China-Europe relations. A robust China-France relationship can play a pivotal guiding role in the broader China-Europe relationship.

China and Europe share extensive common interests, where cooperation outweighs competition, and consensus exceeds divergence. 

China-Europe relations are not targeted at, dependent on, or constrained by any third party. If China and Europe join hands, a "new Cold War" will not materialize. 

China's policy toward Europe remains stable and consistent. We always regard Europe as a significant force in a multipolar world and hope that France can continue to play a positive role within the EU, promoting a more independent and objective perception of China. 

By adopting a pragmatic and proactive policy toward China, expanding the scope of cooperation with China, and resisting the negative tendencies of "de-risking" and "reducing dependence," we can ensure the healthy and stable development of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Europe.

GT: In the face of increasingly prominent global security and development challenges, in which areas can China and France further strengthen cooperation and coordination?

China and France should adhere to a global governance approach of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits. Together, we should safeguard the international system centered on the United Nations, the international order based on international law, and the basic norms of international relations underpinned by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. 

We should practice genuine multilateralism and guide the world toward equal, orderly, and multipolar development. We should adhere to a common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security concept, explicitly opposing hegemonism and unilateralism, and explore the promotion of political solutions to regional hotspots such as the Ukrainian crisis and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 

We should push economic globalization toward a more open, inclusive, balanced, and universally beneficial direction, expand trilateral and multilateral cooperation, and maintain the stability and resilience of the industrial and supply chains of China, France, Europe, and the world at large.

GT: Between December 27 and 28, 2023, the Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs was held in Beijing. As a diplomat who has been devotedly working on the front lines of foreign affairs, what important signals do you think this conference sends about the future direction of China's foreign affairs?

The conference was recently held successfully, where Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), was in attendance and delivered an important address.

He comprehensively summarized the ten historical achievements of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in the new era, systematically outlined six valuable experiences, profoundly expounded on the international environment and historical mission of foreign affairs work in the new era, and made comprehensive arrangements for foreign affairs work for the future. The conference not only reflected the glory of major-country diplomacy over the last decade but also sounded the clarion call for a renewed start on a new journey.

In this new journey, major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics will enter a new stage with even greater promise. The general direction of human development and progress will not change; the overall logic of the world's historical progression will not change; and the global trend of shared destiny will not change. 

GT: The conference also emphasized that we have both pursued development and safeguarded security, and effectively upheld China's sovereignty, security, and development interests with a firm will and an indomitable fighting spirit. And it is imperative to carry forward our fighting spirit. How do you understand the importance of maintaining a "fighting spirit" in foreign affairs work?

"Fighting bravely without fear of sacrifice" is an important part of the great spirit of the founding of the Party, and the term "fighting" was mentioned 22 times in the 20th Party Congress report. This conference summarized the valuable experiences accumulated in the practice of diplomacy in the new era. One of the key lessons is the necessity to foster a spirit of struggle, to resolutely oppose all forms of power politics and bullying, and to robustly defend national interests and national dignity.

Daring to struggle and being adept in struggle has been a fine tradition in China's diplomacy since the founding of New China in 1949. From the early days of New China, fighting in the Korean War to safeguard the nation, to withstanding so-called "sanctions" by the West during the dramatic changes in Eastern Europe in the 1980s and 1990s to ensure the flag of socialism with Chinese characteristics remained unfurled, to actively dealing with the NATO bombing of our embassy in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, handling China-US trade frictions, and comprehensively conducting anti-interference struggles on Hong Kong-related issues, Chinese diplomacy has always staunchly protected national interests and national dignity. 

Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, facing the drastic changes in the international situation, especially against external extortion, containment, blockade, and extreme pressure, we have maintained strategic focus, fostered a spirit of struggle, defended national dignity and core interests in the struggle, and firmly held the initiative in our country's development and security.

Xi recently emphasized at the conference with Chinese diplomats stationed abroad the necessity of daring to struggle and being good at it, to be defenders of national interests. As embassies and consulates are at the forefront of foreign exchanges and struggle, we must remember Xi's earnest instructions, strengthen our confidence and resolve, maintain strategic clarity, firmly establish bottom-line thinking, and with the readiness of "an arrow on the bow" and a resolve that does not fear power, resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security, and developmental interests.