Chirac taps China's French connections

Updated: 2006-10-25 15:22

French President Jacques Chirac is seeking to build on a decade of warming diplomacy between Beijing and Paris as he starts what may be his last state visit to China.

Here is an overview of the relationship, past and present.

Modern Ties:

- France established a trading post in Canton, known today as Guangzhou, almost three decades after the British East Indian Company set up a post there in 1711. France vied for influence with Europe's other colonial powers over the following centuries.

- An Anglo-French joint force razed Beijing's imperial Summer Palace during the 1860 Opium War. In 1900, Chinese nationalists fought to expel foreign invaders in the Boxer Rebellion.

- France was one of the first European countries to recognise China after the People's Republic was founded in 1949. The two established relations in 1964, seven years before Beijing was admitted into the United Nations and 15 years before Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

International Allies:

- France and China are both permanent members of the UN Security Council. Along with Russia, they opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

- France has been a prime supporter of ending an EU weapons embargo on China put in place on June 26, 1989. 

Regional Rivalries:

- French arms sales to Taiwan in the early 1990s severely set back Sino-French relations. On January 12, 1994, the two signed a joint communique stating France would not authorise French companies to sell arms to Taiwan.

- In March 2005, Chirac reiterated France's support for Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. China, occupied by Japan before and during World War Two, opposes that bid.

Bilateral Trade:

- French exports to China rose 28 percent in the first half of 2006 while imports from China rose 17 percent for a first half trade balance of 7.3 billion euros (US$9.13 billion) in China's favour, according to French statistics.

- China was France's ninth biggest export market in 2005, with 47 percent of exports coming from capital equipment for sectors like aerospace and land transport.

- France is the third largest European investor in China and its 10th largest foreign investor globally.

- In April 2005, France and China signed 20 agreements and contracts worth three billion euros (US$3.75 billion). Deals included US$3.2 billion for 30 Airbus planes and 373 million euros for electric trains from French engineering giant Alstom.