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Sino-French Relations Look Ahead

By Wang Zhaohui 

With the world entering into the 21st century, the Sino-French relationship has stepped onto a stage of comprehensive cooperation and rapid development. The potentials and prospects for future development are great.


First, China and France have built their cooperative partnership at a strategic height, and therefore of a solid foundation.


1. Geographically far away from each other and different in political system though, the two countries enjoy similarities in terms of value conception, for instance, both countries pursue “independence,” oppose “power politics” and “hegemony” in international relations, and hold that all nations are equal. They pay attention to protecting the characteristics of national culture as well as cultural diversity of the world, and advocate dialogue and exchange between different civilizations and cultures to promote the development of a multicultural world.


The two countries also share similar political conceptions. They support the central position of the Untied Nations in international relations, stand for dialogue instead of military means as the first approach to solve global issues, and stress that a new balanced and harmonious international political and economic order should be based on the universal participation of all nations.


2. “Multi-polarization” is the key point in the building of Sino-French partnership. After the Cold War, the United States has tried to build an international order under its leadership by relying on its unique political, economic, technological and military position. The world seems to move towards singular polarity. Both China and France have kept a close watch on the trend.


China holds that it is a general trend for the world to move toward multi-polarity as such development is conducive to mutual respect of each country’s sovereignty and rights and the establishment of a fair and just international order.


Since the administration of Charles de Gaulle, France has advocated breaking the pattern of bi-polarity to create conditions for the development of multi-polarization in the world. After President Jacques Chirac came into power, he paid attention to developing “multi-polarized” diplomacy.


Such a shared perception of a future multi-polarized world has helped to draw China and France closer. The joint statement of the two countries on building an overall partnership points out that China and France are dedicated to “strengthening cooperation, promoting the process of multi-polarization… contributing to the establishment of a fair and balanced international political and economic order, and opposing any attempt at hegemony in international affairs.”


Second, the “overall partnership” framework defined between China and France and the increasingly maturing partnership relations between China and Europe have set up a road sign for the future development of Sino-French relations.


The document signed between China and France of building “an overall partnership” defines the following key points during the future development of bilateral relations:


In terms of international cooperation, the two sides will give priority to enhancing multi-polarization endeavors, promoting the reform of the United Nations and disarmament, paying attention to environmental protection, cracking down on drugs, crime and terrorism, supporting multilateral trade and respecting diversity.


In respect of bilateral relations, the two sides will work to set up an exchange and consultation mechanism, strengthen economic and trade cooperation and enhance exchange in fields of culture, education and science and technology.


What’s more, great progress has also been made in recent years in the China-European “cooperative partnership” which has been strongly promoted by European countries including France. The European Union in its China strategy paper this year points out that China-European relations have developed into a partnership moving towards maturity. The EU has also decided to issue a paper in the near future on the establishment of a Europe-China strategic partnership so as to define a framework for the cooperation between European countries and China. Under these frameworks, Sino-French relations will develop more steadily.


Third, both the countries acknowledge they are mutually complementary in economy and hope to establish balanced relations catering to the interests of both sides.


China and France enjoy a great potential in economic cooperation. Comparing the US$100 million trade value before the two countries established formal diplomatic ties, the figure has now grown 120 times. France is very satisfied with the progress, but on the other side, it considers that its advantages have not been fully tapped during the trade between the two countries. These have manifested in the following aspects:


l         China enjoys a trade surplus with France, with French products occupying only a 1.4-percent share in China;

l         French-Chinese trade relations haven’t reached the level of political relations;

l         France has world-class technology in express railway and the civil utilization of nuclear energy. There is room for further cooperation between the two countries in these fields;

l         Current Sino-French cooperation involves mainly big enterprises, but there are 2 million small and medium-sized businesses in France;

l         French-Chinese economic and technological cooperation is not confined to export of products. France is willing to transfer technology or set up joint ventures.


Accordingly, France has expressed the hope to enhance its publicity on the Chinese market and to promote it to be the second largest trade partner of China next only to Germany within EU.


“Structural imbalance” also exists in cultural exchanges of the two countries. Actually French people’s knowledge of China is far less than Chinese people’s knowledge of France. As a result, China will take the opportunity of “sponsoring the cultural year” in France to publicize Chinese culture in France and expand cooperation with the French cultural industry.


The author is a researcher with the Chinese Institute of International Studies.


(China.org.cn January 26, 2004)


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