French President Jacques Chirac started a state visit to China Saturday. President Chirac is an old friend of China. On his visit to China seven years ago he established the all-round strategic partnership with China, which is of historic significance in Sino-French relations marking a new era of Sino-French relations. Both China and France hold high expectations toward President Chirac's visit to China, hoping that the relationship between the two countries would be raised to a new higher level.
There is an internal drive existing between China and France, which promotes the development of the bilateral relations. This drive comes from the common ground and similar points shared by the two countries in many aspects. Both countries have a long history endowed with resplendent culture. Both are the permanent members of the UN Security Council. In particular the two countries have similar experience in maintaining independence and opposing foreign interference and control.
China and France share common understanding on many international issues. Both countries advocate a multipolar world and oppose unilateralism; both are for dialogue and against confrontation; both believe that different civilizations should live in harmony and learn from each other; both support giving more play to the United Nations, promoting sustainable development, deepening South-North cooperation and elimination of poverty. The comments made by Chirac to Chinese journalists before his visit to China are an excellent footnote: "Our partnership is first built on our shared view of the world, which is multipolar, respects international principles and supports each other".
China and France have different kinds of political system and vary in ideology, but the two share common language on many strategic questions such as political strategy, diplomatic policies and the concept of multi-polarization. The root cause for this is due to the abovementioned commonality between the two countries. Former President of France d'Estaing once said: "the common things (between China and France) are fundamental. In many circumstances the two countries have similar responses, seek for similar solutions and arrive at similar conclusions through different approaches". It is this kind of commonality that forms the foundation for the mutual trust and mutual respect between the two countries, and effectively drives the continuous in-depth development of the bilateral relations.
China and France are highly complementary in economy. France is the world fourth largest country in terms of economy, trade and science and technology. It is quite strong in fields such as aviation, space flight, energy resources, transportation, telecommunication, environmental protection, agriculture and produce processing etc.; China has achieved fast economic development since the opening-up and has advantages such as a huge market, low-cost labor and complete industrial and social infrastructure. China and France aid each other in their respective advantages, which provides broader space for promoting and strengthening the economic and trade cooperation between the two countries.
President Chirac came to China mainly with three important tasks including several aspects of the Sino-French cooperation.
The first task is to further strengthen the Sino-French bilateral relations. In his own words: "I will carry out my state visit to China with the desire to develop the cooperation relationship. I hope this visit will enable the France-China bilateral relations to scale new heights". He stated his willingness to consider China as the top-priority cooperation partner in the political, cultural and economic fields.
The second task is to attend the opening activities of the French Culture Year held in Beijing and bring it French cultural presents including a French impressionist painting show and an aerobatics show by the Patrouille de France (PAF), hoping to use the French Culture Year as an opportunity to boost exchange between the Chinese and French peoples and promote dialogue between different cultures and civilizations.
The third task is to expand economic and trade cooperation with China, which is the most important of all and a feature of his visit to China. In traditional Sino-French relations the focal foothold on which both sides based themselves was strategic cooperation, political cooperation outweighing cooperation in other fields such as economy and trade. Before his visit to China Chirac stated "my China visit has an important economic mission". He also brought with him more than 300 French entrepreneurs and 50-odd business moguls with the aim to expand economic and trade cooperation with China. According to reports during Chirac's China visit China and France are expected to sign substantial commercial contracts. The contracts include France's 900,000-ton wheat export to China, A380 passenger planes and more than 20 trade contracts or agreements, such as China-France joint new helicopter development project, involving many fields such as agriculture, aviation, transportation and nuclear energy.
What is worth mentioning is that President Chirac has deep China complex and is quite inclined toward and specialized in the Chinese culture. The first stop of his visit was Chengdu and he made a special visit to the Thatched Cottage of Poet Du Fu. It is believed that during President Chirac's ongoing visit to China he, together with the Chinese leaders, will advance the Sino-French relations to a higher level with the French tradition and his own special characteristics.
This is a translation by People's Daily Online of an article by Pan Qichang, research fellow at the European Studies Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.