President Hu kicks off visit to France
( 2004-01-27 08:38) (China Daily by Hu Qihua)
Chinese President Hu Jintao was greeted with rapturous ceremonies in Paris at the start of his first state visit to France, marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
At the beginning of a visit that will be marked not only by large cultural displays and talks likely to touch on business and the topic of Taiwan, Hu was greeted at the airport by a full contingent.
Despite a chilly and sleet-filled Parisian afternoon, French President Jacques Chirac met Hu at Orly Airport. It was a high profile reception for a foreign guest.
His hosts not only rolled out red carpets and decorated his hotel with red lanterns, but his visit coincided with a show of red lights at the Eiffel Tower at night and grand parades participated by 7,500 people over the weekend to mark the anniversary and the Year of Chinese Culture in France.
After national anthems and military honours at the airport, Hu and Chirac headed for the Presidential Elysee Palace for private talks and a welcome banquet.
Today, Hu will have formal talks with Chirac and the two sides will sign a series of agreements, including a joint statement on bilateral relations and documents on economic co-operation on the manufacture of DVD players, TV sets and glass production.
In the afternoon, Hu will deliver a speech at the National Assembly, lower house of the French parliament, and will have a personal view of the Eiffel Tower awash in red lights
Experts say Hu's visit highlights the strategic partnership between the two nations.
In a speech released at the airport, Hu said both members of the United Nations Security Council, China and France have a particular responsibility and an influential role in international affairs.
Hu stressed that with the continuous changing of international situation, it is particularly important to enhance relations between the two countries.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous said earlier that France and China have expressed their willingness to work together to meet the challenges of globalization.
"The convergence between France and China has never been so strong. It is witnessed firstly in the political field on all major international issues," he said.
In Beijing, Wang Yi, professor with China Institute of International Studies, said that as both countries support the idea of independent, balanced and multilateral diplomacy, they may have similar views in the international political arena.
A wide range of topics from bilateral ties to hot spots of international affairs are expected to be touched upon during today's formal talks.
Hu is very likely to call on France to oppose independence moves made by Taiwan authorities.
Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian has proposed referendums on March 20, which Beijing sees as a dangerous move towards independence.
Ahead of Hu's visit, Liu Haixing, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Western European Affairs said in Beijing that China appreciates France's support of the one-China policy.
"We hope that France can support China's opposition to Taiwan independence and the referendum," he said.
Hu will also confer with Chirac on political and economic reconstruction in Iraq during their talks, according to foreign ministry sources.
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