Academic journal article China Perspectives

Relations between France and China: The Break . . . with Germany?

Academic journal article China Perspectives

Relations between France and China: The Break . . . with Germany?

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

Compiled and commented by Mathieu Duchâtel, based on:

* Luo Shaolan, "Sarkozy's visit to China, a mission to set the tone for France-China relations." Yazhou shibao zaixian (, 26 November 2007.

* Luo Shaolan, "China's relations with Germany: are they cooling off?" Yazhou shibao zaixian (, 26 November 2007.

* Pan Xiaoshou, "Allowing Sarkozy to touch the Terracotta army: what did it mean?" Yazhou shibao zaixian (, 27 November 2007.

LPresident Sarkozy was welcomed to China as no for- eign head of state has been welcomed since Presi- dent Clinton in 1998: nearly 20 billion euros' worth of contracts, a lavish dinner with Hu Jintao (French haute cuisinerather than the customary Chinese specialities), and permission to touch the precious soldiers of Emperor Qin Shihuang's Terracotta Army in Xian. Pan Xiaoshou writes that Beijing's evident intention was to soften him up (keyi taohao). Back in 1998, Beijing needed a substantial im- provement in its relations with Washington. Today, now that China's international standing has considerably improved and its relations with France are far from being in crisis, why are the leaders in Beijing laying on such a fine reception for President Sarkozy?

First of all, the two countries' interests really are complemen- tary. Paris needs big contracts to keep big business interests firmly behind the government, to improve France's trade bal- ance and to reduce the public deficit. France wishes to main- tain economic cooperation and trade exchanges as the driv- ing force behind its relations with China, while keeping its approach constructive and pragmatic and seeking to win Bei- jing's cooperation over issues it considers important, such as the fight against global warming. Beijing, for its part, needs an ally within the European Union to defend Chinese inter- ests there, with a particular view to lifting the embargo on arms sales at some future date. Above all, China is always avid for technology transfers, to rebuild its industrial base and, in the longer term, to become a technological power in its own right, capable of rivalling the West, or at least of being less dependent upon it. From this point of view, Sarkozy's reputed Atlanticism has no effect on Franco-Chi- nese relations. Between Paris and Beijing, the honeymoon continues.

But the importance that China attaches to France may be explained by a new factor: the change of attitude in Berlin, where the government has decided to take a harder line to- wards Beijing. As a consequence, according to Pan, China has found it essential to compensate for the cooling down of its relations with Germany by strengthening its friendship with France. So China brought its usual strategy back into play: divide and rule. Here Beijing perceives a double ad- vantage. Firstly, it can secure for China a provider of tech- nology: this at a time when the US, Japan, and Germany are adopting a cautious approach to the usefulness of trans- ferring technology to a state whose strategic intentions are still opaque. Secondly, it can attempt to maintain the policy of "using Europe to counter the US" (la'ou zhimei), or, at the very least, to prevent a Western common front in support of democracy and human rights. …

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