Chinese FM meets with Macron in Paris, concludes Europe trip
High-profile reception underscores positive attitude, strategic consensus
Published: Feb 21, 2024 08:40 PM
French President Emmanuel Macron met with visiting member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Paris on February 20, 2024. Photo: Chinese Foreign Ministry

French President Emmanuel Macron met with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Paris on February 20, 2024. Photo: Chinese Foreign Ministry

French President Emmanuel Macron met with the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Paris on Tuesday local time, where Wang also co-chaired a new round of strategic dialogue between China and France. 

Experts believe that such a high-profile reception reflects France's positive attitude toward the development of China-France relations, in anticipation that in 2024, China-France relations will continue to lead China-EU relations, injecting new impetus into dialogue, exchanges and cooperation between China and Europe in various fields.

Wang, also member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, arrived in France after attending the 60th Munich Security Conference (MSC) and concluding his visit to Spain.

The bilateral relationship between China and France has been a paradigm within China-EU relations, which has continuously evolved from the very beginning to the present day, Chinese experts said. When the current overall situation in Europe, which is fraught with crises, is taken into consideration, it is evident that Europe's potential recovery from these crises is inseparable from a sound bilateral relationship between China and Europe, they noted. 

Meanwhile, China-France relations serve as a strategic indicator for the direction of China-EU relations as France is a major power in the continent. As France plays a significant role in shaping the overall policies and decisions of Europe, the development of China-France relations contributes positively to the overall progress of China-EU relations. Particularly, France's strong emphasis on strategic autonomy and its influence in shaping the EU's decision-making regarding China have a constructive impact on the development of China-Europe relations, experts said. 

High-level consensus 

During the meeting with Wang, Macron fondly recalled his successful visit to China last year and expressed his expectation for jointly preparing for this year's high-level exchanges. 

Macron said he hopes that both sides will take the opportunity of the China-France strategic dialogue to implement the important consensus he and Chinese President Xi Jinping had reached and further develop a lasting and close France-China relationship. France has consistently adhered to the one-China policy, which is clear and unequivocal, Macron said. 

"The high-level reception of Foreign Minister Wang Yi reflects France's emphasis, particularly during critical moments in China-EU relations this year, on further consolidating and expanding the relationship and enhancing strategic interaction and consensus between the two sides," Dong Yifan, a research fellow at the Institute of European Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

The China-France strategic dialogue goes beyond diplomatic domain. It involves dialogues between leaders and decision-makers in foreign affairs, highlighting strategic leadership in China-France relations, Dong said, noting that this underscores the mutual reliance and deepening of bilateral ties.

On the occasion of celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and France in January, President Xi hailed the two countries 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.

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, Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye told the Global Times in an exclusive interview in January.

Also on Tuesday local time, Wang and French President's Diplomatic Adviser Emmanuel Bonne co-chaired the 25th China-France Strategic Dialogue in Paris. Both sides agreed to further strengthen cooperation in addressing climate change, protecting biodiversity, artificial intelligence and aerospace and other issues of concern. They also agreed on increasing the frequency of direct flights, and to further facilitate people-to-people exchanges.

"The China-France strategic dialogue serves as a leading mechanism for us to engage in strategic discussions, cultural exchanges, and economic dialogues with major countries worldwide. It is expected that in 2024, we will witness China-France relations to take the lead in guiding China-Europe relations," Gao Jian, an expert on European studies at Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times.

Whether it is from the perspective of the bilateral economic and trade relations or future trends in European security and development, stable and strong China-France relations and China-Europe bilateral relations would play a fundamentally constructive role, Gao said. 

China-EU relations in focus 

According to media reports, in addition to the visits to France and Spain, Wang met at least seven European leaders and high-level officials including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell during the Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Germany, which concluded on February 18.

Amid calls from some voices to "de-risk" from China, Wang warned during the MSC that those who attempt to shut China out in the name of "de-risking" would be making a historic mistake.

Meanwhile, some Western media said the China-Europe ties have worsened due to the Ukraine crisis, and the EU is proposing to sanction Chinese companies that have aided Russia in the conflict. 

"Europe views 'de-risking' differently from 'decoupling.' In the European strategic community, there is a belief that Europe's excess reliance on China in certain areas poses certain risks to its economic stability. However, Europe has never stated its intention to 'decouple' from the Chinese economy," Gao said. 

Gao said he believes there are some fundamental differences between China-Europe bilateral economic relations and those between China and the US. "China-Europe bilateral relations should have strong complementary significance," he noted. 

During his visit to Europe, Wang reiterated China's position on the Ukraine issue by saying that China has stayed committed to promoting peace talks on the Ukraine issue and will not give up as long as there is a glimmer of hope.

The EU should not view China-EU relations through the "prism" of the Ukraine crisis and both China-Russia and China-EU relations are multifaceted. "I believe that the EU's linking of EU-China relations with the Ukraine crisis is not a rational approach," Fu Cong, head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, was quoted as saying in media reports in 2023. 

Both China and Europe should play a stabilizing role in the current turbulent world, which signifies mutual reliance between the two sides, experts said. 

"In the future, there may be new changes in many geopolitical issues. It is important for both sides to enhance communication and jointly address potential risks or uncertainties. This holds significant importance for both parties," Dong said.