China, France to advance economic exchanges with deepening cooperation in emerging fields amid 60 years of diplomatic ties
Emerging fields become new growth engines for bilateral cooperation: experts
Published: May 05, 2024 07:32 PM
China France Photo:VCG

China France Photo:VCG

As 2024 marks the 60th anniversary of China-France diplomatic relations, exchanges in core sectors such as aerospace, nuclear energy and trade have already realized fruitful achievements, while the development of emerging fields such as new energy and the digital economy are likely to become new growth engines for propelling bilateral cooperation, French enterprises and Chinese experts said.

Observers also highlighted France's relatively independent policy toward China and China's vast market potential as major advantages in consolidating bilateral exchanges. 

Unlike some other European countries, whose economic policies have been strongly influenced by the US, France has a strong level of independence with its policy toward China, as it highly values the world's second-largest economy as a major market and production base for French enterprises, Sun Yanhong, a senior research fellow at the Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday.

In addition, the strong cultural confidence of the two sides and deep people-to-people and cultural exchanges have made China-France relations more stable than in the case of some other European countries, said Cui Hongjian, a professor at the Academy of Regional and Global Governance with Beijing Foreign Studies University. 

France is China's third-largest trading partner in the EU while China remains France's fourth-largest global trading partner. In the first quarter of 2024, bilateral trade totaled 127.22 billion yuan ($17.99 billion), according to data from China's General Administration of Customs. From 2019 to 2023, China's trade with France grew 5.9 percent annually. 

Specifically, France is China's largest source of agricultural imports from the EU with a total import value of 10 billion yuan and increases in products such as dairy, pork and wine during the first quarter.

China remains a crucial supplier of a wide range of consumer goods for France, as exports of home appliances to France grew 30.6 percent year-on-year while exports of toys increased by 28 percent, official data showed. 

Besides the consolidated cooperation in traditional fields, experts expect the rapid development of emerging industries will likely create new growth points to further advance bilateral cooperation. 

Sun sees cooperation potential in industries related to the digital economy and green transformation, as Europe has been involved in these sectors, with both advantages and shortcomings that can be made up through collaborating with China. 

France has relatively insufficient production capacity, and it has a talent gap in research and development in new energy. China can provide corresponding help and the two countries have complementarity in the sector, Sun said, adding that the green transformation will offer more opportunities for both sides to explore new potential in sectors like agriculture. 

French enterprises are also upbeat about continuously deepening cooperation with their Chinese counterparts in emerging sectors with confidence and positive outlook amid the celebration of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and France. 

"We honor our role in supporting China's strong economic growth and green transition as one of the first multinational environmental services companies in the market," Sabrina Soussan, chairman and CEO of SUEZ, told the Global Times in a recent interview, adding that China remains a key market and strategic partner for the company. 

Soussan highlighted significant partnerships signed in the presence of the two countries' leaders, and these projects aimed at transforming waste into renewable energy and pioneering electric vehicle battery recycling. These are critical for China's green transition. "I believe that by collaborating with local partners, we leverage our combined strengths to significantly advance China's green and low-carbon transition," Soussan said. 

A think tank report titled "China-EU Cooperation on Environment and Climate: Progress and Prospects" was released globally on Friday. Noting green as the distinctive color of China-EU cooperation, the report said this cooperation not only enriches and develops the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership, but also directly advances the environmental governance, trade and investment of both sides, benefiting the entire world.

Amid China's efforts to bolster high-quality opening-up, observers said that China will remain a hot destination for investment from Europe, backed up by supportive measures, while suggesting more targeted measures for further expanding cooperation. 

For instance, new areas could be explored when it comes to expanding market access, such as developing the economy targeting the elderly, which France and Europe have much experience in, Cui told the Global Times on Sunday.  

In the first two months of 2024, France's actual investment in China increased by 585.8 percent year-on-year, according to data from China's Ministry of Commerce.