60 years of China-France relations 'stabilizer' for world amid new Cold War challenge
Published: Jan 26, 2024 09:06 PM Updated: Jan 26, 2024 11:02 PM

China France Photo:VCG

China France Photo:VCG

As China and France mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday hailed the pair as being "at the forefront of China's relations with Western countries," and called on the two sides to respond to global uncertainties with the stability of their relations.

Sixty years ago, China and France were able to break the deadlock of the Cold War, and this original aspiration is even more valuable in today's world of increasing anti-globalization sentiment and rising right-wing populist forces, observers said. They believe that China-France ties will further serve as the "stabilizer" and "guiding light" for China-Europe relations and prevent the world from sliding into a new Cold War confrontation.

Delivering a video speech on Thursday celebrating the anniversary, Xi said the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries had opened the door to exchanges and cooperation between China and the West, bringing hope to the world amid the Cold War. 

Over the past 60 years, China-France relations have always been at the forefront of China's relations with Western countries, bringing benefits to the two peoples and contributing to world peace, stability and development, Xi said.

Facing the new era, the pair should uphold the original aspiration of the establishment of ties, unswervingly develop bilateral relations and respond to world uncertainties with the stability of China-France relations, Xi said.

French President Emmanuel Macron also delivered a video speech in which he elaborated on how General Charles de Gaulle went beyond the logic of camp confrontation 60 years ago and made the historic decision to establish ties. Today, Macron said, the two sides have the responsibility to continue working together to build a partnership that not only meets the needs of the two peoples, but also contributes to world peace and stability.

"Steady" and "far-reaching" are the two words most frequently mentioned by Chinese analysts when commenting on the development of China-France relations. 

The two countries started out at a key point of time in history, and standing at this high point, they managed to conduct their relations at a high level, consistently finding consensus on major international issues such as climate change and global governance, Cui Hongjian, a professor with the Academy of Regional and Global Governance with Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times on Friday. 

Furthermore, China-France relations have shown a strong stability that set them apart from China's relations with other Western countries, as the strategic depth between the pair allows for a more comprehensive approach, enabling the two to navigate different periods and challenges, the expert said. 

It is worth noting that both Xi and Macron mentioned the significance of the establishment of ties as "breaking the ice" of camp confrontation during the Cold War era. Observers believe it carries more meaning in today's world, where complexity and chaos fill every corner of the world with voices of a new Cold War rising.

Europe now faces various internal and external factors of change. Externally, the US' pursuit of hegemony hampers Europe from achieving true independence, as it attempts to use Europe as a pawn to satisfy its own agenda to suppress Russia and China. Internally, Europe faces a number of important elections this year, with the European Parliament elections in June and a number of national elections, said Zhao Junjie, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies.

"That's why France should become a stabilizer and booster to guide China-Europe relations, especially when there is still a lack of political mutual trust between China and Europe," Zhao told the Global Times on Friday. 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday said at a reception that China and France should uphold their fine traditions and shoulder their responsibilities for leading China-EU relations to a steady and lasting future.

To support the healthy development of this relationship, experts said China and France need to tap into potential cooperation in more fields, as they are currently far from being fully unleashed. 

For example, both sides should find common ground on rebalancing trade, as it is not an issue that can be solved by pressuring China, but requires the two to sit down and find breakthroughs in current trade bottlenecks.

Green energy is also a key sector that can be worked on. There is a high level of consensus between China and France in the field of climate change, and France should not seek cooperation while at the same time adopting unfair trade remedies on Chinese electric vehicles, Cui noted. 

As one of the first French companies to enter China, L'Oréal is a witness, beneficiary, and promoter of the friendly development of relations between the two countries.

Fabrice Megarbane, President of L'Oréal North Asia and CEO of L'Oréal China, told the Global Times that 2024 holds great significance for the brand, as it marks a new cycle for China-France diplomatic relations and for L'Oréal. 

"This new cycle combines socioeconomic development, meeting consumers' aspirations for a better life, and the need to address the sustainability challenge. We believe that the China-France relationship will continue to play an unprecedented role in the world, creating a new path for globalization, producing win-win results through innovative collaboration, and leveraging their unique strengths," Megarbane said.