Xi's France visit inspires Sino-French green cooperation

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A new Sino-French agreement to build an "ecological town" in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, has pointed the way forward for how China's green push can benefit from French expertise.

Signed in Paris on Thursday by China's ambassador to France and the head of France's Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, the agreement will see a business park established lakeside in Wuhan's Caodian District. It will assemble enterprises from fields including automobile, wedding, recycling and IT, all the while showcasing the best practice in environmental management.

It is among 21 deals inked between the two countries as Chinese President Xi Jinping is in France for a state visit. According to a blueprint published after Xi met his French counterpart Francois Hollande in Paris on Thursday, the two countries will cooperate in fields including water and waste treatment.

China and France will jointly participate in the design and construction of the Wuhan project, with France offering its technologies and experience.

With China gearing up the fight against chronic pollution problems, many eyes will be on Wuhan's achievements. It is expected to offer a glimpse of French involvement in the nation's environmental protection.


Xing Guoliang is well positioned to offer insight on Sino-French collaboration in the nascent environmental protection market. The venture capitalist studied in France in the 1980s before starting work at Veolia Environment, a transnational French company specializing in water, waste and energy management.

Veolia entered China in 1997, and it has more than 13,000 employees to provide services for over 43 million Chinese residents.

"The Chinese government's vision of strengthening environmental protection may not be realized unless it can plan better as it has many problems concerning systems, technology and capital," said Xing.

Turning to France for support may help. The European nation is the world's largest water treatment equipment provider, and statistics from the United Nations Environment Programme suggest that the export volume of French firms in the overall environmental protection industry ranks fourth worldwide.

Noting practices from France, Xing said China can draw lessons to introduce advanced technology, improve water pollution control and adopt effectiveness auditing.

He explained that "delegation of public service" is the prevailing model in France, a system which sees the government delegate public services to firms. But the government steps in in crucial cases -- "for example, if an earthquake destroys a sewage treatment plant, the government will pay the bill."

Strict implementation in accordance with the law is also guaranteed in France through effectiveness auditing, which calculates according to how much waste has been dealt with in reality rather than the theoretical capacity of a plant. Officials' careers are closely related to these evaluation results.

Jean-Piere Arcangeli is another man who knows how the new deal can benefit Wuhan. He is vice president of Sino-French Water Development Co., Ltd., a partnership between Suez Environment of France and NWS Holdings Limited of Hong Kong. The company kicked off a sewage treatment project in Wuhan in 2011.

"I expect further cooperation with Wuhan in the Sino-French ecological town to better protect the city's water resources," he said.

"France does a great job on environmental protection," said Xing, "as evidenced by the existence of two world-class firms like Veolia and Suez."

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