Xinhua Headlines: China, France building up momentum for future-oriented cooperation

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PARIS, May 6 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping was warmly received by French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal at Paris Orly airport as he started his third state visit following previous trips in 2014 and 2019.

This visit took place during the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and France, fueling the visit with special meaning as an important opportunity to build on past achievements and guide the future of bilateral ties.

In the 60 years since, the bilateral relations have always stayed abreast of China's relations with Western countries, setting a prime example for countries with different social systems to coexist in peace and pursue win-win cooperation, Xi said in a written speech on Sunday upon his arrival here.

China is ready to consolidate traditional friendship, enhance political mutual trust, build strategic consensus and deepen exchanges and cooperation in various fields with France via visit, Xi said.


According to data released by China's Ministry of Commerce, French direct investment in China in the first two months of this year has surged 585.8 percent year-on-year.

China and France, in the face of difficulties and challenges, have upheld true multilateralism and kept to the right direction of free trade and economic globalization, significantly enhancing the resilience and vitality of bilateral economic and trade cooperation, said Xi while addressing the closing ceremony of the fifth meeting of the China-France Business Council in Beijing in April 2023.

According to a 2023 survey of French companies in China conducted by the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China, many member companies are planning to further invest in China.

"The importance of the Chinese market, from my point of view, has not changed," Barbara Frei, the executive vice president of Schneider Electric, told Xinhua. She voiced confidence in China's position as a more mature economy and the biggest market in industrial automation and highlighted China's role as an "innovation driver."

Her remarks were echoed by Patrick Charignon, vice president for Asia-Pacific of EDF Renewables, a subsidiary of France's leading electric utility company EDF.

"China, with its immense ambitions in terms of energy transition, and as the world leader in decarbonized energy production capacity, is obviously a very important market for EDF," said Charignon.

Upholding mutual benefit and win-win cooperation, China-France economic and trade cooperation continues to expand, making the "pie" of cooperation bigger. Two-way trade between China and France has reached 78.9 billion U.S. dollars in 2023.

China is now France's largest trading partner in Asia, while France ranks as China's third-largest trading partner within the European Union (EU).

During a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in April last year, Xi conveyed to Macron China's readiness to work with France to build a "French farm to Chinese dining table" whole-chain rapid coordination mechanism. Nowadays, this mechanism is becoming a shining example of practical cooperation between China and France.

"We produce high-quality beef thanks to our certification and traceability system. We still need to communicate that quality to Chinese consumers," Maxence Bigard, president of INTERBEV, the French interprofessional livestock and meat association, told Xinhua.


In recent years, the relationship between China and France has risen to new heights, and the two countries keep making new progress in cooperation on aviation, aerospace, nuclear energy, agrifood and green development, said Xi in his written speech on Sunday.

In the joint venture established by the Renault Group and the Chinese automotive supplier Minth located in the "Battery Valley" of northern France, two new production lines have begun manufacturing battery boxes for electric vehicles.

Inside the factory, dozens of welding robots and handling robots work in an orderly manner. The advanced technologies brought by the Chinese side have spared French partners' capital and time.

"What really interests us is to have this partnership so that we can benefit from the know-how of these Chinese companies that have made very, very rapid progress, particularly in electric vehicles, but also in upstream technologies," said Yann Pitollet, CEO of Nord France Invest, whose words echo the sentiments of many local executives.

In January, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus opened a service center dedicated to the entire lifecycle of an aircraft in the city of Chengdu, the firm's first such center outside Europe.

"Expanding our presence in the Chinese market provides us with the opportunity to discover additional avenues for growth," said Brian Agnew, general manager of Airbus Lifecycle Services, adding that the Chengdu project is driving Airbus to expedite the development of localized services, benefiting not only Chinese customers but also global clients.

In the cosmetics industry, China has become one of the six global research and innovation centers and one of the three global beauty technology centers for French company L'Oreal, as well as a product evaluation center.

France was the first Western country to cooperate with China on civilian nuclear energy projects. Since then, cooperation has expanded from technical to more forward-looking research areas.

"The two countries are committed to continuing their nuclear cooperation on cutting-edge research and development topics, in particular on the basis of the agreement between the Atomic Energy Authority of China and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission," said a joint statement between China and France in 2023.

Luo Qingping, chairman of the China Institute of Nuclear Industry Strategy (CINIS), told Xinhua that over the past year, CINIS has conducted forward-looking research on nuclear energy to support low-carbon development in collaboration with EDF.

"This is an exemplary case of strategic planning research cooperation between Chinese and French companies, reflecting the consensus between China and France in the development of nuclear energy," said Luo.


In the video speech marking the 60th anniversary of China-France diplomatic ties, Xi said the two countries should "pool cooperation forces and share development opportunities through openness."

The China International Import Expo (CIIE) has become an important gateway for French goods to enter the Chinese market. The 7th CIIE of this year has once again invited France as the guest of honor. Pascale Thieffry, director of the French Pavilion department at Business France, said that the CIIE has greatly promoted the trade development between France and China.

On the French side, the International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture) in Paris also serves as a bridge for agricultural cooperation between China and France. From February to March this year, the Chinese Pavilion made its debut at this annual event, with local specialties such as dried wolfberries and citrus peel tea, as well as Chinese handicrafts like paper-cutting and shadow puppets, attracting many French customers to come and discuss cooperation.

Cross-border e-commerce between China and France has witnessed a boom in recent years. Li Mingtao, head of the research institute at the China International Electronic Commerce Center, said in the past two years, e-commerce platforms have prompted many small French enterprises to explore the Chinese market.

A study by SDA Bocconi School of Management in Italy shows that from 2019 to 2022, French exports to China on Chinese e-commerce platforms such as Tmall and Taobao Global amounted to 41 billion euros (44 billion dollars), roughly equivalent to the total sum of exports of Italy, Spain, and Germany to China.

Meanwhile, Chinese e-commerce platforms such as Shein and Temu have boosted Chinese exports to France, offering high-quality and affordable products to French consumers.

The third-party market cooperation between China and France also continues to deepen. Stellantis Group, a leading global automaker that merged by Italian-American Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and the French PSA Group, invested 1.5 billion euros (1.62 billion dollars) in October last year to acquire about 20 percent of the shares of Chinese electric vehicle company Leapmotor Technology. The newly established joint venture has started production of pure electric vehicles in Italy and Poland, among other places.

In the Republic of the Congo, China, France and the Central African country jointly undertake the concession operation project for No. 1 National Highway, significantly boosting local employment and improving people's well-being. Enditem

(Xinhua correspondents Qiao Benxiao, Zhang Baihui, Zhang Chaoqun, Dong Xiaohong, Che Yunlong and Li Chao also contributed to the story.)

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