As China's economy continues to expand, so does the number of French-invested companies in the nation, a reflection of the dynamic bilateral relationship, said Annick de Kermadec-Bentzmann, president of the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China (CCIFC).
Modern Sino-French relations spring from a long-standing friendship begun after the two nations established official diplomatic relations in 1964, Bentzmann said, adding that France was among the first Western countries to recognize the New China.
"Good mutual understanding based on respect and trust in a long-term perspective and good communication between Chinese and French peoples are the key components for a successful partnership," she said.
Founded in 1992, CCIFC is today a network of more than 1,200 French companies, mainly involved in the environmental work, transport, energy, retailing, hotels and finance. Some have been in China since the end of the 19th century, Bentzmann said.
The chamber's member companies now have a total staff of half a million people in China and the number continues to grow, she said.
Nations around the world now agree one of the most crucial issues today is the fight against global warming to ensure the survival of future generations through sustainable development, Bentzmann said.
As a result, most French-invested companies in China are concerned about the environment and energy conservation, she noted.
She cited Carrefour as an example. All new stores in the French hypermarket chain save as much as 20 percent of energy compared to 2007. That follows a 15 percent energy reduction over 2006.
French speciality chemicals technology company Rhodia is another example. It received the national corporate responsibility award as one of the 50 best among 7,000 multinationals in China last year.
The company is now testing a catalytic system on Beijing public buses that can significantly reduce emissions from diesel-powered engines.
Rhodia is also investing in a new plant in Qingdao to manufacture silica for a new generation of tires that can enable a 10 percent reduction of in fuel consumption.
Bentzmann said that CCIFC is a partner in tree planting programs with foreign companies in China responding to global warming.
In addition to energy and the environment, French companies have contributed to Chinese society in other ways.
Automobile and motorcycle manufacturer PSA Peugeot Citroen has sponsored a road safety program for more than four years.
To raise awareness the company collaborated with the Ministry of Health to mount a nationwide competition on road safety among 220 million Internet users.
As well, it has held exhibitions and a bus tour in six Chinese cities to increase safety awareness among schoolchildren aged between five and seven.
The carmaker's joint venture in Wuhan, Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen, is the first car manufacturer in the country to publish an annual report on sustainable development, Bentzmann said.