China, France to play bigger global role after Macron visit

George N. Tzogopoulos China Plus Published: 2018-01-12 18:46:06
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By George N. Tzogopoulos

In 1964 Chairman Mao Zedong and General Charles de Gaulle decided to establish diplomatic relations between China and France opening a new chapter in their relationship. Since then the bilateral relationship has grown at the economic, political and cultural level. 54 years later Presidents Xi Jinping and Emmanuel Macron met in Beijing and decided to further advance it. Subsequently, the comprehensive strategic partnership will be further developed. As Xi said, ‘bilateral ties stand at a new starting point’ and ‘China stands ready to promote exchanges and enhance mutual trust and cooperation with France’.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd R) and his wife Peng Liyuan (1st R) pose for a group photo with visiting French President Emmanuel Macron (2nd L) and his wife Brigitte Macron at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 8, 2018. Xi met with Macron in Beijing on Monday. [Photo: Xinhua]

Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd R) and his wife Peng Liyuan (1st R) pose for a group photo with visiting French President Emmanuel Macron (2nd L) and his wife Brigitte Macron at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 8, 2018. Xi met with Macron in Beijing on Monday. [Photo: Xinhua]

The two countries are sharing several goals and concerns. Their commitment to build an open global economy and support globalization, for instance, is of high significance in a period during which the Trump presidency is introducing a different thinking with his ‘America First’ policy. That is because Xi and Macron agreed in working together for the strengthening of the role of G20. It is on the occasion of the previous G20 Summit in Hamburg where the two leaders had the opportunity to meet for the first time. During that meeting Xi extended an invitation to Macron to visit China.

Moreover, China and France are collaborating on the liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment while endorsing the principle of multilateralism. Specifically, they believe that all WTO members need to strengthen the implementation of multilateral requirements and disciplines including in terms of transparency and subsidies notification, so as to maintain the strength and credibility of the multilateral system. On the same wavelength, Beijing and Paris are decisive to cooperate at the IMF level, improving its quota and governance structure.

Important as they are the afore-mentioned issues of agreement do not constitute new elements in the bilateral partnership. By contrast, what is new and deserves particular attention is the straightforward French support for the Belt and Road Initiative. ‘France welcomes the Belt and Road Initiative’ as the Joint Declaration stipulates. This clarification is promising as the EU has recently been skeptical on Chinese investments in Europe launching a screening mechanism. This said, China and France are also interested in injecting impetus to Sino-European relations. The former is supporting the integration of the EU despite the view of a few critics that it is diving it and both will continue to work actively to implement the China-EU 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation.

From another perspective, trade is equally significant for both China and France. In 2016, the bilateral trade volume reached $75 billion to continue its rise in the last two decades. E-commerce will only contribute to an increase of turnover. Unsurprisingly, Chinese online retail giants and Alibaba announced during Macron’s visit that they would sell more French products on their platforms and create logistic centers in France. And many more business deals are expected to be reached in the short and medium term. The Chinese aviation, for example, is interested in buying new aircrafts by French colossus Airbus. In addition, cooperation in the field of nuclear energy is flourishing. In parallel with the future development of the Hinkley Point C project in the UK, China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) and the French Alternative Energy and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) agreed to cooperate on areas such as nuclear reactor technology, advanced fuels and materials, and nuclear fuel cycles.

Last but not least, Beijing and Paris are both showing responsibility in dealing with critical challenges. They are doing so by coordinating their actions in international organizations such as the UN and respecting international law. Examples include the fight against terror i.e. in Africa where G5 Sahel is addressing the issues of peace and security as well as the combat against terrorism financing. As it was outlined during the stay of Macron in China, the two countries are on the same page regarding important international issues. The Korean crisis, the civil war in Syria, the Middle East Peace Process, the Libyan political dialogue and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program find the two presidents largely agree. Needless to say that their determination to keep the Paris Climate Accord alive cannot but be applauded.

To sum up, perspectives are bright for the future evolution of Sino-French relations. Xi and Macron are developing a good personal chemistry and are motivated by history, their vision for the future and realism. More is expected in the coming years.

(Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is a senior research fellow and advisor for EU-China relations at the Centre international de formation européenne, Nice/Berlin.)

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.