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Hu Jintao Proposes Steps to Boost Strategic Partnership with France

Visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao proposed in Paris Tuesday that China and France strengthen political, economic and cultural cooperation to deepen their comprehensive strategic partnership.

Hu, here on a three-day state visit, told the second session of formal talks with French president Jacques Chirac that the Chinese government is ready to work with the French side to boost such a partnership as the two countries celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations.

Leaders of both nations have viewed and developed bilateral ties from a strategic height and both countries champion an independent foreign policy, democratization in international relations and are committed to bringing into play the role of the United Nations, Hu said.

These, and the great potentials for bilateral cooperation in economy and trade, culture, and science and education, constitute the favorable factors for a smooth development of Sino-French relations, he added.

Chirac, for his part, hailed Hu's visit as one that inherits the past and ushers in the future, saying it will definitely help advance the comprehensive and strategic cooperation between the two countries.

Hu proposed that the two sides strengthen the exchange of high-level visits and further enhance their strategic cooperation, intensify dialogue and consultation on such important international issues as the role of the UN, terrorism, non-proliferation, the fight against cross-border crimes, and sustainable development so as to help safeguard world peace and stability.

The Chinese president also called for the establishment of a long-term and stable comprehensive economic and trade partnership between the two countries and the opening up of new areas for cooperation in farming, environmental protection, small and medium-sized enterprises, and disease prevention and control.

Hu expressed hope that France sharpen its competitive edge, strengthen technology transfer and take a more active part in market competition in China.

He urged greater cultural exchanges to help the peoples of the two countries to have a more in-depth understanding of the history and culture of each other, to step up cooperation in education, science and technology, and to facilitate the cultural diversity of the world.

Chirac concurred with Hu's proposals, adding that the two sides should consolidate and strengthen their cooperation in international affairs.

France is anxious to expand its economic and trade cooperation with China, especially in such areas as nuclear energy, aviation, railways, space technology, and life science, Chirac said.

Following their talks, the two leaders signed the Chinese-French Joint Declaration, which reviews the development of Sino-French comprehensive strategic partnership since 1997, and puts forward guidelines for improving the partnership.

In the declaration, the French government makes it clear it upholds the one-China policy, and opposes "any unilateral initiative whatsoever, including a referendum which aims to change the status quo by increasing tensions in the strait and leading to Taiwan's independence."

Speaking at a joint press conference after talks with Chirac, Hu expressed his belief that the declaration will play an important role in promoting the Sino-French relations in the future.

To promote Sino-French comprehensive strategic partnership is in the basic interests of both countries, conducive to Sino-EU cooperation, and beneficial to the world's peace, stability, development and prosperity, Hu stressed.

For his part, Chirac said the two sides have started a process that will increase exchanges between the two countries, and Franceis willing to promote the exchanges with China.

Answering a question on the Taiwan issue, Chirac reiterated France's one-China policy. He said the French government opposes any unilateral initiative including "referendum" that is designed to change the status quo and heighten the tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Such initiative is irresponsible, the French president added.

France is the first leg of Hu's four-nation tour, which will also take him to Egypt, Gabon and Algeria.

(Xinhua News Agency January 28, 2004)

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