Wu Jianmin was Chinese ambassador in France from 1998 to 2003. He previously served as ambassador to the United Nations, and the Netherlands. He is now President of China Foreign Affairs University.
Sino-French relations have hit a low point recently, but China is not to blame, and relations could be mended relatively quickly, Wu Jianmin, former Chinese ambassador to France, told China Youth Daily.
China Youth Daily: You were ambassador to France from 1998 to 2003, a golden age in Sino-French relations. The heads of state exchanged visits and the cultural program of China-France Years was initiated. What lay behind the good relations between the two countries during that period?
Wu Jianmin: I think it was the election of Jacques Chirac as French President in 1995. Chirac is genuinely interested in, and understands Chinese culture and actively promoted good relations between China and France. Chirac used to read books about Chinese culture and art almost every night. He visited the Terra-Cotta Warriors in Xi'an, and declared it the eighth wonder of the world. He also realized the growing importance of China globally and decided it was important to study the country's culture.
Additionally, China and France shared a similar view on the need to promote a multi-polar world. And as China grew in strength the common interests between the two parties grew in step. All these factors contributed to good relations.
China Youth Daily: Is it really just a matter of the views and interests of leaders? What about the current cooling in relations between Beijing and Paris? Is it all about the personality of Nicolas Sarkozy?
Wu Jianmin: Of course, the attitudes of leaders have an impact on the administration of a country. Nicolas Sarkozy is forceful, smart and eager for success.
The focus of international relations is changing; Europe and America are declining and Asian countries are rising in international standing. This has led to a feeling of loss among European countries.
Nicolas Sarkozy was elected with a big majority, but his popularity declined sharply within months of him taking office. He was rattled by his loss of support and began to play to the gallery of public opinion. Unfortunately, the biased views of sections of the French media on the Olympics and the Tibet issue, misled many French people, and their views, in turn, affected the actions of the country's leaders.
Given this background, Sino-French ties have soured somewhat, but China cannot be held responsible.