Cultural events cement longstanding relations
The curtain of the Year of France in China has fallen, ending a nearly two-year-long period in intensified cultural exchanges between China and France.
However, the conclusion of French Culture Year, does not mean an end to cultural exchanges and co-operation between the two countries, but heralds a new starting point, French Ambassador to China Philippe Guelluy told China Daily in a recent interview.
The China-France Culture Year, consisting of the Year of China in France and Year of France in China, were the result of a political decision by former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and French President Jacques Chirac in 1999.
The Chinese-French Culture Year was huge. France has also launched similar projects in other countries including Egypt, but none can compare with the one in China, said Guelluy.
With its opening ceremony held in the Forbidden City and closing ceremony in the Summer Palace, - both world's famous cultural relics sites - the Year of France in China has received a great deal of attention in both countries, the ambassador said.
The Year of France concluded on Saturday with three major events, including the performance by the Paris Opera Ballet, an evening ball in the Summer Palace, and the "incredible adventure - France on the Great Wall."
As well as these activities, well-known French film star Sophie Marceau, who was the image ambassador for the closing ceremony, presented a film show of her repertoire in Beijing and Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province.
These activities have brought to the Chinese people the great charm of the colourful French culture.
Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China attended the closing ceremony, and some high-ranking French officials, including Senate President Christian Poncelet, French Minister of Culture Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and two other French ministers, were also present, bringing the events into the spotlight.
Bilateral cultural events
The China-France Culture Year programme is an important part of the Sino-French Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Framework set up in 1997.
The Year of China in France, held in France from October 2003 to last July, was a fantastic success, Guelluy said.
With the title "Ancient, Colourful and Modern China", the Year of China succeeded in exhibiting the magnificent aspects of the Chinese culture and the country's vigorous modern life to the French audiences.
The Year of France in China, which was launched last October and concluded on Sunday, has also helped the Chinese people get to know more about the French nation and the essence of its culture.
The event reached more than 20 provinces and municipalities with hundreds of performances, exhibitions and symposiums, thus displaying to the Chinese people not only the rich cultural heritage of France, but also its great achievements in industrial development.
France's budget for the event was 37 million euros (US$45.5 million), including 15 million euros (US$18.4 million) from the French Government and the rest donated by French and Chinese companies.
Intimacy between nations
Guelluy attributed the booming Sino-French cultural co-operation largely to the close political relations between the two nations, and the increasingly important role China is playing in the international arena.
"France supports China to play the role it deserves on the international scene," the ambassador said.
Regular meetings of the leaders of both countries during the cultural years have greatly promoted the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership, Guelluy stressed.
Last October, French President Jacques Chirac visited China to open the Year of France in China and Chinese President Hu Jintao attended the Year of China in France last January. French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin paid an official visit to China in April.
Premier Wen Jiabao is due to visit France this October and hold talks with French leaders on a series of issues of common concern, Guelluy told China Daily.
The frequent high-level exchanges have enhanced bilateral trust and strengthened understanding between the two peoples, the ambassador added.
"We (the Chinese and French peoples) know each other, and in France, everybody knows China and likes the ancient eastern country," he said.
The China-France Culture Year is not only a result of deepened bilateral co-operation, but is also of great significance in further enhancing friendship between the two peoples, promoting mutual understanding and deepening relations between China, France and Europe as a whole.
The programme contributes much to global cultural diversity, the ambassador added.
The two nations advocate dialogues, exchanges and co-operation between different civilizations.
France was the first major Western country to recognize China diplomatically.
Over the past four decades, the leadership of the two countries have paid a lot of attention to their ties, and the relationship between the two countries, which has been consistently enriched and broadened, has developed rapidly with marked achievements.
The two countries have supported each other on a series of international affairs and have also carried out satisfactory co-operation in trade, science, technology, education and culture.
"Co-operation between the two countries can definitely create mutual benefits," said the ambassador.
France has been one of the world leaders in high-tech development, according to the ambassador.
The two countries have maintained close co-operation in nuclear power, aviation, space technology and transportation sectors.
For example, the Galileo Global Satellite Navigation System initiated by France is an important technical programme in Europe based on a constellation of 30 satellites and ground stations.
China joined the programme in October 2004, with the country's National Remote Sensing Centre becoming part of the Galileo project.
In France, nuclear power accounts for an impressive 75 per cent of power production. The country is now sharing its rich experience in nuclear power development with China.
At present France is the largest European source of technology transfer to China.
As far as the long standing European Union's arms embargo upon China is concerned, the French ambassador also expressed optimism.
"As a political matter, there is no reason for the weapons embargo to go on," he said. "We do hope the EU partners decide to lift the embargo."
The ambassador also said he is confident that France can do more to co-operation between the EU and China in the future.
(China Daily 09/20/2005 page1)
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