Xi Jinping and Emmanuel Macron hail 60 years of China-France relations

Diplomatic ties between France and the People’s Republic of China were launched by Charles de Gaulle and Mao Zedong in 1964, with a series of commemorative events expected this year.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron during Macron’s visit to Guangzhou on April 7, 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE

Media reports claim that Xi will make his first European trip since the pandemic to France this spring, although neither side has confirmed the visit.

“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 people of both countries and contributing to world peace, stability and development,” Xi said, according to Xinhua.

“China and France will continue to make contributions to safeguarding world peace and stability and responding to global challenges; we must adhere to mutual benefit and win-win results, while deepening traditional cooperation.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke in person at the event at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, urging France to “take a clear-cut stand against the Cold War mentality and camp confrontation”.

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“We will continue to unleash consumer and investment market demand, continue to expand the import of high-quality products and services from France … I believe that France will also uphold the concept of openness and provide Chinese companies with a fair, just and predictable business environment,” Wang said.

The speeches took place amid a fraught geopolitical backdrop, with trade tensions between Europe and China flaring over recent months.

Paris was the main sponsor of a European Union investigation into industrial subsidies in China’s electric vehicle sector. In response, Beijing launched a probe into subsidies in the French brandy industry, which has created a chill effect on sales of cognac in China.

“When China announces an investigation, it is the start of the ban on French cognac, an effective ban. It signals to society in China that cognac is no longer in favour,” Ian Ford, a Shanghai-based founder and chief executive of Nimbility, a brand and sales management company for alcohol sold in Asia, said in a recent interview with the Post.
Bottles of Remy Martin VSOP cognac, Remy Martin XO cognac and St-Remy XO Brandy. China has launched an investigation into French subsidiesto its brandy industry. Photo: Reuters

On Wednesday, the EU launched an update to its economic security strategy, the cornerstone of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s push to de-risk ties with China.

France, however, was among the member states pushing back against a key element of the strategy: the development of outbound investment controls on private capital bound for China.

In general, France has been one of the bloc’s strongest proponents of industrial policy, but has rebuked efforts to move Europe closer to the US concerning China. Macron’s allies frequently promote the idea of Europe as a third prong in a multipolar world.

“We need to continue to promote Europe as a third bloc, a balancing force between the US and China,” EU industry chief Thierry Breton, a close ally of Macron, said this month.

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Macron is on a state visit to India, where he will be the guest of honour at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s India Day celebrations on Friday. Europe and the US have both courted New Delhi as a counterweight to China in both military and economic terms.

According to France 24, Macron is hoping to secure more military sales to India, building on recent deals on fighter jets, submarines and nuclear reactors.

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