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CGTN: A bridge of communication: China, France open new vistas for ties

Chinese President Xi Jinping landed in Paris on Sunday for a state visit to France, with the two sides poised to boost ties and cooperation and make new contributions to world peace, stability and development.

It is Xi’s third state visit to France and his first trip to Europe in nearly five years. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of China-France diplomatic relations.

“I hope this visit will help cement our long-standing friendship, enhance political trust, build strategic consensus and deepen exchanges and cooperation in various fields,” he said in a written speech upon his arrival, adding that it is a great pleasure to begin his third state visit to the country at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Back in 2014 and 2019, Xi paid two visits to France, both in spring, to celebrate the 50th and 55th anniversaries of diplomatic relations together with the people of France.

Two independents

Turn the clock back 60 years to 1964. On January 27, China and France made history by formally establishing diplomatic relations. In an editorial published the next day, French daily Le Monde called this historic moment “the encounter of two independents.”

In an article published on Sunday in French newspaper Le Figaro, Xi said “with the establishment of China-France relations, a bridge of communication between the East and West was built, and the international relations were able to evolve in the direction of dialogue and cooperation.”

From Confucius to French writer Romain Rolland, Xi quoted their words to highlight the importance of the spirit of “independence,” which he reiterated as an important feature of the “China-France spirit.”

“Confucius observed that ‘a man of true moral integrity is one who is both friendly but independent, and who does not compromise his principles, and who is independent without any bias or taking sides. How unflinchingly firm he is in his strength!’ French writer Romain Rolland said that ‘it is so much easier to allow oneself to be guided than it is to think for oneself. This abdication is the kernel of the mischief.’”

“Both China and France value independence as two major countries and the two countries’ interactions in the long course of history have released tremendous energy swaying the trajectory of the world,” Xi added.

A prime example

In the 60 years since establishing diplomatic ties, China and France have set an example for countries with different social systems to coexist in peace and pursue win-win cooperation, Xi stressed in the written speech.

China is France’s largest trading partner in Asia and the seventh largest globally. Meanwhile, France is China’s third-largest trading partner and the third-largest source of investment in the European Union.

Total trade between the two countries was $78.9 billion in 2023, with an average year-on-year increase of 5.9 percent from 2019 to 2023. Over the past five years, China’s imports of consumer goods from France have grown at an average annual rate of 12.3 percent, while China’s imports of material technology products, biotechnology products and integrated circuits from France have all grown at double-digit rates.

The two sides have also worked together to break new ground in advanced areas, including civil nuclear energy and aerospace and aviation.

Airbus, for example, launched its second final assembly line project in Tianjin in 2023 as the French aircraft manufacturer sought to expand in the Chinese market. According to Airbus, its market share in China has expanded from about 20 percent to over 50 percent over the past 15 years.

Data from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce showed 6,687 French companies had been established in China by the end of 2021, with a total investment of over $19 billion.

Fruitful educational collaboration and exchange outcomes between China and France have been seen since the two countries established a high-level people-to-people exchange mechanism in 2014.

Over 46,000 Chinese students are currently pursuing studies in France, while more than 1,500 French students are enrolled in Chinese institutions, according to China’s Ministry of Education.

Both countries have expanded language programs to foster cultural exchanges. Chinese universities have established 148 undergraduate, 34 master’s degree and 10 doctoral teaching sites, while 18 Confucius Institutes and a Confucius Classroom have been established in France.

China-France cooperation on climate change also contributed to the conclusion of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, boosting strongly the implementation of the global climate agenda.

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