China, France toast continuing strong ties

Updated: 2014-03-29 07:16

By Zhao Yanrong (China Daily)

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Long-term friendship, common interests and complementary economies will take Sino-French relations into a new era, especially when the two countries mark their 50th anniversary of bilateral relations later this year, according to a Chinese former senior official.

Making the remarks during President Xi Jinping's first state visit to France was Wei Jianguo, vice-chairman of the China Center of International Economic Exchanges as well as a former vice-minister of commerce.

Wei said that many former Chinese leaders, such as Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, studied in Lyon, France, in the 1920s.

"They knew well Lyon's culture and the development of industries in France.

Xi chose the city of Lyon, instead of Paris as his first stop in the country because of its special meaning to both countries' friendship, he added.

Judging by the lavish ceremony with which French President Francois Hollande welcomed Xi, Wei said Hollande's government attaches great importance to its ties with China.

"As with his predecessors, Hollande has strong interests in Chinese culture as well," he added.

China, France toast continuing strong ties
China and France established diplomatic relations in 1964.

"I was majoring in French in college, so I got a chance to visit France after I graduated," Wei said. "In the 1960s and 1970s, international travel was still not that easy for the Chinese, but France was the first Western country to open direct flights from China to Europe.

France also is the first Western country to cooperate with China on nuclear energy, the first European country to open a Chinese cultural center and the first to encourage youth exchanges with China, he added.

"The ties lead the two countries to stand together while facing many challenges, such as climate change, terrorism and the development of clean energy. China and France share a large range of common interests," Wei said.

Xi noted that China-France relations should be a model for China's relations with the rest of Europe.

Especially in terms of economic and trade cooperation, the two countries complement one another, Wei said, adding there are many industries in which they can jointly invest, research and develop - nuclear energy, aviation agriculture, finance, urbanization and healthcare being some.

"There are plenty of French products in which Chinese people are interested, such as wine, olive oil, cosmetics, clothing and handbags. More imports from France to China can help to balance the bilateral trade," he said.

For the past decade, trade between China and France has grown rapidly. From 2003 to 2013, the bilateral trade volume jumped from $13 billion to nearly $50 billion, CCTV News said.

France now is the fourth-biggest source of investment into China from the EU. Up until 2013, there were over 4,600 investment projects from France into China. Collectively, they are worth nearly $13 billion.

The number of French companies in China reached 163 last year, up 15.3 percent from 2012.

"China and France also are working on jointly investing in a third country. For instance, the two countries can work together on African countries' agriculture, water conservancy, infrastructure, energy development and personnel training," Wei said.