Chinese President Hu Jintao's upcoming four-nation tour will be the first important foreign visit for Chinese leaders in 2004, officials with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in Beijing Monday.
Hu will pay a state visit to France, Egypt, Gabon and Algeria from Jan. 26 to Feb. 4 at the invitation of French President Jacques Chirac, Egyptian President Muhammed Hosni Mubarak, Gabonese President El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba, and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Liu Haixing, deputy director of the ministry's Department of West European Affairs, said the Chinese president's France tour from Jan. 26 to 29 will coincide with the China Culture Year in France. Hu is expected to attend some events of the year-long cultural exchange program.
Hu will confer with French President Chirac on the Iraq issue.
Liu said the Iraqi issue has aroused extensive attention from the international community, and the Chinese President will exchange views with his French counterpart on Iraq's political and economic reconstruction during their talks.
Zhai Jun, director of the ministry's Department for West Asian and North African Affairs, said China maintains that the Iraqi issue should be solved in line with the Iraqi people's fundamental interests, to safeguard regional stability and to maintain the UN Security Council's authority.
Zhai said China believes Iraq's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence should be maintained, and any new regime in Iraq should be decided by the Iraqi people.
The international community should actively participate in Iraq's reconstruction process, with the United Nations playing a key role, said Zhai.
Based on these principles, China hopes to play a positive role in resolving Iraqi issue and taking part in Iraq's reconstruction process, Zhai said.
At an international donors' conference on Iraq reconstruction in Madrid, capital of Spain, in October, 2003, the Chinese government announced it would provide assistance of US$25 million for the Iraqi people.
The assistance indicated the Chinese people's concern for the Iraqi people to live peaceful, stable and happy lives, Zhai said.
During his upcoming visit to France, Hu will also address the national assembly, the first such arrangement made by a Chinese leader in the French Parliament. The two sides are expected to sign deals on the manufacture of DVD players and TV sets, glass production and atomic energy, Liu said.
No agreement will be inked yet for the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail system because the project is still "in the early feasibility study period," Liu said.
According to Liu, China hopes that France will support its stand on the Taiwan issue.
China appreciates the French government's upholding of the one-China principle, and hopes France will oppose independence moves by Taiwan authorities, Liu said.
The smooth relations between China and France were disrupted by French sales of warships and fighter planes to Taiwan in the early 1990s despite China's repeated protests. The two sides signed a communique in 1994 in which France pledged it would no longer sell arms to Taiwan, putting relations back to normal.
China and France declared the establishment of a full partnership relationship in 1997 when French President Chirac visited China. The two sides have since maintained close relations in political, economic and cultural areas.
Liu warned that Taiwan authorities were trying to separate China under the disguise of a referendum, another step towards Taiwan independence.
The attitude of the Chinese government on that issue is clear-cut, and it sticks to the principle of "peaceful reunification" and "one country, two systems", and would never tolerate Taiwan independence.
China needs French support on the issue because France is a big power and can exert important influence with the international community. It is also an important member of the European Union and a strategic cooperative partner of China.
The United States and some other Western powers have stated clearly earlier that they support the one-China policy, and oppose Taiwan independence and referenda.
On Hu's Egypt trip from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1, the two countries are expected to sign documents on economic and technological cooperation, China's preferential loans to Egypt and investment memoranda on a special economic zone in the Suez gulf, Zhai said.
During his visit to Egypt, Hu will also visit the League of Arab States (LAS) headquarters and meet with LAS Secretary-General Amr Mahmoud Moussa. A cooperation forum between China and Arab countries is likely to be set up during Hu's visit. The two sides will probably announce the establishment of the forum after a consensus on the founding declaration is reached, Zhai said.
According to Zhai, China and Arab countries enjoy good cooperation in economic and political affairs. Trade volume between the two sides topped US$25 billion in 2003.
Zhai said future cooperation under the forum is likely to cover a broad range of fields including politics, economy and trade, culture, education, health and sports.
"China hopes the cooperation forum will serve as a new platform to further upgrade the relations between the two sides," Zhai said.
Zhai said China's new leadership attaches great importance to promoting the traditional, friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation with Arab countries as well as other developing nations.
This type of relationship is based on mutual understanding and support and has deep political foundation, Zhai said.
He said the Chinese president will also announce China's policies on developing relations with Arab countries and developing countries during his visits to Egypt and Algeria.
Hu's Gabon trip, from Feb. 1 to 3, is the first visit of a Chinese president to the country in the three decades since the two countries forged diplomatic ties.
Hu will address the Gabonese Parliament and expound China's policy on developing and strengthening ties with Africa, said Zhao Jiangping, counselor of the ministry's Department of African Affairs.
"The two countries will discuss possibilities for energy cooperation," Zhao said.
Algeria will be the last leg of Hu's visit. China and Algeria will sign agreements on economic and technological cooperation and higher education during Hu's visit to the country from Feb. 3 to 4, said Zhai, adding that China may also ink an energy cooperation deal with Algeria during the visit.
It will be Hu's first visit to Africa as Chinese president.
(Xinhua News Agency January 20, 2004)