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Cultural Exchanges Promote Sino-French Economic Cooperation

French entrepreneurs are ready to further expand their businesses in China, having gained a better understanding of the country through exchanges during The Chinese-French Culture Year, said Henri Proglio, chairman of the Honorary Committee of the French Culture Year.
"Many French business people had never been to China, and the culture year provided them a good opportunity to see what China is really like," said Proglio in an interview with Xinhua.
After their visits, some French entrepreneurs modified their business development strategy to focus more on China, Proglio said.
The Chinese-French Culture Year has been hailed as pioneering work in the history of China-Europe cultural exchange. In the Chinese Culture Year, held in France from October 2003 to July 2004, more than 400 programs were presented to the French people.
The French Culture Year in China, which concluded last weekend, showed Chinese audiences not only the romantic side of the French, but also their innovative spirit.
"China has risen as a strong industrial nation over the last few years, due to its huge population, big market, talented personnel and competitive laborers, and many factories in the West were moved to China," Proglio said
"Many people in the West hold the belief that China is engaging in unfair competition because of its low labor cost," he said, adding that such belief has resulted in protectionism in Western countries.
"Against this background, the Chinese-French Year served as a good bridge of communication, enabling business people from the two countries to conduct open dialogues and create a good environment to resolve disputes," Proglio said.
The honorary committee was founded to provide financial support to the French Culture Year in China and promote economic cooperation, with its chairman appointed by French President Jacques Chirac.
The committee consists of 28 large French enterprises such as Veolia Envioronnement, Airbus, Alstom and Alcatel, and more than 20 enterprises in the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong.
The committee donated 25 million euros to the culture year and served as a good platform of dialogue for entrepreneurs of the two countries, according to Proglio.
He said that the committee will aid more Chinese students to study in first-class universities in France, a move that he said will deepen the relations between the two countries.
As president of Veolia Environnement, Proglio also sees a great business opportunity in environmental protection in China, saying that the Chinese people are demanding a better environment as their living standards improve.
He said through his contacts with Chinese government officials, he found that many local governments have put environmental protection high on the agenda, with a focus on water and air quality improvement, and sewage and waste treatment.
"We have had successful cooperation with China in this field over the last decade, and we are confident of future cooperation," Proglio said.

(Xinhua News Agency September 20, 2005)

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