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Xi ends France visit with no-tie diplomacy

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-05-08 15:57
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President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan are received by French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron at the airport in Tarbes, Hautes-Pyrenees Department of France, May 7, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

TARBES, France -- On the last day of Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to France, his engagement with French President Emmanuel Macron took on a more personal tone.

In Tarbes, nestled in the Hautes-Pyrenees Department of France, a locale dear to Macron from his childhood, the two heads of state, wearing no ties, on Tuesday enjoyed a traditional folk dance performance, shared a meal, and chatted in a relaxing and cordial atmosphere.

Such amicable interactions between Xi and Macron, arranged after the fully-packed previous day of talks and meetings, allowed the two leaders more time for deeper understanding of each other as well as the country and people they represent.


The French hospitality in the Pyrenees was reminiscent of the informal talks between Xi and Macron in April 2023 in Guangzhou, the capital of South China's Guangdong province.

The two leaders then strolled through a southern Chinese garden, had tea by the water, and listened to a live performance of the ancient Chinese music piece "High Mountains and Flowing Water," which represents cherished friendship in Chinese culture.

Macron on Tuesday recalled his visit to China last year, especially the meeting at the Pine Garden in Guangzhou which left him with a deep and wonderful impression.

He said that through in-depth exchanges with Xi, he learned more about China's history, culture, philosophy, and development process and gained a deeper understanding of China's position on important issues.

The Chinese and French leaders had a similar interaction in March 2019 in the French city of Nice, where Macron received Xi at Villa Kerylos, a century-old house overlooking the Mediterranean and seen as a microcosm reflecting European civilization.

Later that year, in November, Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, met with Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, in the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai, China. The location was chosen so that the Macrons "can appreciate the beauty of Chinese gardens and traditional Chinese culture," Xi said then.


On Monday, the two leaders exchanged gifts before having a discussion at the Elysee Palace, the office and residence of the French president.

Both leaders selected books as gifts for the other. Macron gave Xi rare volumes by Victor Hugo, and a copy of "Linguae Sinarum Mandarinicae hieroglyphicae grammatica duplex," a Chinese language grammar book published in 1742 by French scholar and Orientalist Etienne Fourmont. The Chinese president gifted Macron Chinese translations of French novels.

At the welcoming banquet hosted by Macron Monday evening, Xi underscored the significance of cross-cultural exchanges in fostering mutual respect and understanding between China and France.

"The China-France relationship is special in that we appreciate each other. Representing Eastern and Western civilizations, China and France have a fine tradition of mutual appreciation and mutual attraction," Xi said.

Former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius echoed this opinion, noting that China and France appreciate each other's rich culture and history.

"There are, of course, differences between China and France, but there are also many points in common. We are great civilizations ... (and) we are permanent members of the Security Council. On many points, even though our systems are different, our views are similar, if not identical," said Fabius.

French writer Jean-Pierre Page rejected the view of the "superiority of Western civilization as a definition of progress and development."

"There should be no single model imposed from the outside," Page said, adding that "what we need is a community of destiny, win-win relations based on mutual respect."


Among the gifts exchanged on Monday, three Olympic torches were particularly eye-catching, which stood side by side on an off-white marble table in the brightly lit Portrait Room of Elysee Palace.

Xi presented to Macron the Olympic torches of the Beijing 2008 Olympics and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. In return, Macron gifted Xi an Olympic torch of the coming Paris Olympic Games. Paris will host the 33rd Summer Olympic Games from July to August.

Upon arrival for the state visit to France on Sunday, Xi said that he hopes China and France will light up their way forward with the torch of history.

France is a sporting power and China will send a high-level delegation to France to participate in the Games, Xi said with a smile, wishing the Paris Olympic Games every success.

During their meetings over the past two days, both leaders emphatically voiced their opposition to bloc confrontation and reiterated their commitment to multilateralism, with Xi calling on China and France to uphold independence and jointly prevent a "new Cold War."

France was the first major Western country to establish diplomatic relations with China, and has done a great deal to help China develop, said Eric Alauzet, president of the France-China Friendship Group of the French National Assembly, noting that France has for long advocated strategic autonomy for Europe.

"That means not to fall back after the East-West confrontation ... so this multipolarity, this multipolar, multilateral world is what China and France want in common," said Alauzet.

While jointly meeting the press with Macron on Monday, Xi said that China is willing to launch an initiative with France calling for a worldwide truce during the Paris Olympic Games.

"The fact that France and China, who are both permanent members of the Security Council, can work together is very important, given the reality that the world is facing two conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza," said Pascal Boniface, founding director of the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

China and France have also long collaborated on combating climate change and environmental degradation, said Boniface, adding that he is glad to witness both sides' efforts to promote a more peaceful world and strengthen multilateralism, which is currently facing significant challenges.

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