Back on healthy tracks

By Feng Zhongping (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-06 07:05
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Hu Jintao's visit to France will strengthen relations and further extend their importance beyond bilateral fields

President Hu Jintao's state visit to France from Thursday to Saturday has drawn global attention because of its importance.

Over the past two years, China and France have had a series of disputes, which disturbed the development of bilateral relations. Despite that bilateral ties have been back on track since last year, and Hu's visit has further deepened them in fields such as trade, finance, technology and environmental protection.

The visit will help increase political mutual trust, which, experience shows, is crucial for the development of Sino-French relations.

Before his visit, Hu told French newspaper Le Figaro that China was willing to have a frank and sincere dialogue with France to enhance mutual understanding and mutual trust, promote mutual respect and ensure healthy and stable development of bilateral relations.

Sino-French economic cooperation has become more important and prominent since the global financial crisis broke out. In the first half of 2010, Sino-French trade grew by as much as 34.7 percent. Now, France hopes to expand cooperation with China in market access, intellectual property protection, government procurement and investment under the framework of the World Trade Organization.

Emphasizing the importance of cooperation in aviation, energy, transportation and other traditional fields, China has been trying to strengthen it in emerging areas such as finance, new energy, new materials and low-carbon technologies, too.

Since both countries are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the influence of Sino-French relations has never been limited to just bilateral issues. The two countries have always seen their relationship in the broader sense.

France was the first Western power to establish diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China. Since then the two countries have maintained a special relationship. After the end of the Cold War, former French president Jacques Chirac proposed the concept of a multipolar world and promoted the establishment of Sino-French comprehensive strategic partnership. The years that followed saw bilateral cooperation make significant progress in various fields.

Today, the two countries, along with the rest of the world, face the challenge of giving shape to a new international cooperation system to resolve major global issues and rid the world of threats such as the financial crisis and climate change.

Enhancing bilateral cooperation and coordination is of great significance for reforming and/or creating international institutions, improving global governance and responding to global challenges in the post-financial crisis era.

Hu's visit is particularly important for the cooperation and coordination between China and France in the G20. The G20 has played a very important role in dealing with the global financial crisis and has become the most important platform for global economic and financial governance. No wonder, the upcoming G20 Seoul Summit is expected to boost global economic recovery, strengthen financial supervision and help reform international financial institutions.

France will take over G20's rotating chairmanship after the Seoul Summit. So, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to apprise Hu of his country's position on several issues.

Former French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin told reporters a few days ago that France supports the call to reform the international monetary system, for which Paris hopes to cooperate with Beijing. France wants to change the international reserve currency system dominated by the United States' dollar, too.

China's support is crucial for France to identify the important global issues and for the success of next year's G20 summit, Raffarin said.

The other important aspect of Hu's visit to France is that Sino-French ties influence China's ties with the entire European Union (EU) bloc. China's attaches great importance to its ties with the EU, although China-EU relations have not developed smoothly. Trade frictions are increasing, and the EU has complained about its huge trade deficit with China and its policies on market access, intellectual property protection and government procurement.

China has repeatedly objected to the EU's anti-dumping and anti-subsidies investigations into Chinese products. The EU is still to recognize China as a market economy. It has not lifted the embargo on arms exports to China, either.

China knows that the two decisions require the endorsement of all EU member states. And it expects France to take a positive position on the two issues and make the other EU member states see reason.

China got a positive signal from a meeting among France, Germany and Russia in the recent past, where Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the two issues.

The increasing interdependence between China and the EU is taking their ties to a new level of interaction. The fields of cooperation the two sides have opened up, and will continue to do so, have never been more extensive and the importance they attach to each other, never higher.

In today's world of increasing complexity and uncertainty, China and the EU are expected to establish genuine strategic cooperation and be true to their comprehensive strategic partnership.

The author is director of the Institute of European Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

(China Daily 11/06/2010 page5)