Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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  S.E.M. / H.E. ZHAO Jinjun

China-France: A Dynamic Partnership Brings Two Peoples Closer

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the opening of Sino-French relations, cultural events of unprecedented scale are being held in both China and France. H.E. Zhao Jinjun, the Ambassador of China to France, describes how expanding Sino-French ties are building a broad global partnership, as China continues to steadily open up to the rest of the world.

The Diplomatic Letter: Mr. Ambassador, October 2003 marked the opening of a new chapter in Sino-French relations, with the launching of the “Chinese Culture Year” in France, which will be followed by the “French Culture Year” in China starting in October 2004. The Chinese Culture Year is the Chinese government’s first large-scale undertaking of its kind, greatly surpassing the symbolic exchanges of past years. How important is this event for your country, with the Beijing Olympic Games less than four years away? Will it help heighten the image of Chinese culture around the globe?

H.E. Zhao Jinjun: The Chinese Culture Year in France and the French Culture Year in China are truly historic events. They will run for two full years, between 2003 and 2005. The Chinese Culture Year was officially opened on 6 October 2003 in Paris. Our two countries’ Heads of States focused in on the event, sending each other words of congratulations to mark the opening.
Both China and France have built brilliant civilizations. Our two peoples have forged a friendship that dates back for centuries. The Chinese Culture Year in France is a milestone in the history of Sino-French relations. China’s expanded cultural exchanges with France, within the framework of the two China-France Exchange Years, are a sign of its new openness to the rest of the world. Chinese exchanges strive to build wider dialogue and cooperation between different cultures. The plethora of scheduled events will give the French an opportunity to heighten their understanding of China, and to open new dialogues and expand their exchanges with China.
The Chinese Culture Year is centered around three major themes:  eternal China, the China of traditions and diversity, and the China of creators and modernity. These three themes will introduce the French public to the myriad facets of China of the past, present and future. Not only will this important event help to foster greater friendship and mutual understanding between the people of China and France, it will also give a fresh boost to the global partnership forged by our two countries.

T.D.L.: Could you describe a few of the key cultural events that will take place over the next two years for our readers? What do you hope to accomplish through these events, in terms of building greater mutual understanding between the French and the Chinese?

H.E.Z.J.: Chinese musicians, singers, dancers and writers, along with academics, scientists and archeologists, are already in France to participate in the Year of China in France, or will come here over the course of the year. You will be able to see them at numerous performances, exhibitions, acrobatic displays, films, theaters, ballets, parades and concerts. To  mention some of the key events, you can attend public showings of one hundred Chinese films at the Cinémathèque française, or visit the exhibition “The Enigma of the Bronze-Age Man” at City Hall, or the Confucius exhibit at the Guimet Museum. The large parade held on the Champs-Elysées on January 24th, co-hosted by the City of Paris and the City of Beijing, marked a magnificent prelude. All of these events will help to strengthen the friendship between our two peoples, as we continue expanding and deepening our cultural ties.

T.D.L.: In 2001, China confirmed its determination to become part of the world economy by joining the World Trade Organization. How has WTO membership helped your country thus far? China is routinely criticized for its exchange policy, most notably by the United States. Under what conditions would your country consider softening its policy? As the leading destination for foreign investment, what steps is China taking to further enhance its business climate?

H.E.Z.J.: The Chinese government has been working tirelessly to fulfill its commitments since China joined the WTO. The efforts and great headway made by China are plain for all to see. As a new WTO member, in 2002 China made significant strides towards meeting its commitments as concerns trade in goods and services, intellectual property rights, operational transparency, revising its laws and regulations, etc. As promised, China accepted for the very first time to have 17 WTO bodies monitor and review the transition phase it must go through in order to fulfill its commitments. China answered over 60 questionnaires containing more than 1,000 questions put forward by a dozen different WTO members. China has hence confirmed its deep desire to cooperate, and is accordingly carrying out a tremendous amount of work. WTO members have unanimously praised China for these efforts and the headway achieved thus far.
In keeping with the commitments it made upon joining, China continued lowering overall customs duties in 2003, with customs duties on over 3,000 tariff categories dropping by varied degrees. Average customs duties now stand at around 11%. Average customs duties on industrial products are down to 10.3%, and  16.8% on agricultural products. As for non-tariff sectors, on 1 January 2002 China abandoned the quota system along with permits and special handling of bids for grains, wool, cotton, acrylic fibers, polyester staple fibers, chemical fertilizers, certain kinds of tires, etc. China went even further in 2003, doing away with quotas on 16 more tariff categories as well as permits and special handling of bids for a category of motorcycles and their main accessories, automobiles and most of their accessories, cameras, and wristwatches.
Our country is currently running up against protectionist trade policies and discrimination in the international trade arena. A good many countries are still unaware of the real situation in China, and refuse to acknowledge it as a market economy. A handful of countries are even abusing the commitments made by China when it joined the WTO, calling repeatedly for inspections and investigations, as well as safeguard measures against China. Our country has suffered, all around the world, from attacks on its antidumping regime. Chinese firms have also been greatly harmed on foreign markets by restrictions caused by all sorts of non-tariff barriers. This has led to unfair treatment of Chinese firms. What’s more, the latest round of international trade talks failed to make any new headway. The agreement signed by WTO members – which in theory will work to the developing countries’ advantage – has yet to be effectively implemented. All these things have undermined the WTO’s overall objective, and harmed the international and economic and trade climate. We are particularly concerned about this issue, and continue to make our strong opposition known.
With regards to China’s exchange policy, maintaining a reasonable and balanced exchange rate that guarantees the relative stability of the Renminbi will help to ensure the stable growth of the Chinese economy, as well as the regional and world economies.
There are those who claim that China’s current exchange rate mechanism exerts deflationary pressure on other countries. In point of fact, Chinese exports account for just 5% of total world exports. Consequently, they cannot have an enormous impact on world trade. Others say that China is boosting its exports by keeping the value of the Renminbi low. In fact, the main reason why Chinese products are so competitive is because the country has such an extensive labor pool. Another important point about Chinese exports also needs further explanation. Over half of these products are made by foreign-owned firms, or by joint-venture Sino-foreign firms. 55% of Chinese exports are products that have been transformed using imported raw materials. China’s export revenues are hence widely distributed, with much of them going to foreign countries.
The Chinese government has always taken a prudent and responsible attitude towards the exchange rate on the Renminbi. China uses a unitary, managed floating exchange rate system, based on market supply and demand. This is in line with the reality of China’s situation, and also shows that our country has taken on enormous responsibility within the international community.
As part of its deep-reaching financial reform, China is striving to perfect the Renminbi exchange rate mechanism, in tune with its rate of economic growth, the state of its economy, and its balance of payments.
You bring up another key aspect of China’s integration into the world economy: the steady increase in recent years in foreign direct investment, which has remained high. If the amount of foreign investment has steadily increased, this is due precisely to China’s investment climate. We are going to launch even more encouraging measures, improving the level of services as well as the investment climate and doing our utmost to ensure foreign investment continues to grow at a steady and stable pace in China.
First of all, in accordance with the commitments we made upon joining the WTO, we are going to open up even further to the outside world. We will continue moving forward to open up the service sector, and put more effort into promoting foreign investments in logistics, such as distribution networks and export groups. We will be constantly searching for new ways to bring in additional foreign investment and increase the number of sectors making use of foreign capital.
Next, we will speed up the reform of the government’s administrative management system, by beefing up the bodies responsible for attracting foreign capital  instead of implementing a supposedly preferential policy. The national department in question is getting ready to put forward a proposal for reforming the national financing system. We will go even further, reforming the system for evaluating and approving foreign investments. We will simplify procedures, reduce the breadth of requirements, and set up and apply a standard evaluation and approval system. We will devise a system that lays out clear responsibility for evaluating and approving proposals, and create a system for managing foreign investments as well as an operational mechanism. All these measures are well-coordinated, and fall within  normal operational standards. They are transparent, honest, and highly efficient at the same time. We are also going to step up our efforts to reorganize the economic market and create a fair and equitable business climate. In order to successfully reorganize the Chinese market, we are continuing to protect the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors.
Thirdly, we are actively guiding foreign investors’ steps, to ensure they help foster the coordinated development of China’s regional economy. To that end, we have set out a befitting policy designed to:
– encourage foreign-owned firms to invest in the traditional industrial base in northeast and western China;
– increase the number of financial transfers and investments in the construction and development of infrastructures;
– raise the level of available services by expanding training;
– give top priority to the construction of an economic development zone in western China;
– enhance cooperation between the coastal region and western China, across the board;
– update the law on investments by foreign consortiums;
– lay out conditions that encourage foreign firms already working in eastern China to reinvest in the central and western regions.
We will also open up more sectors in central and western China, broadening access conditions and reducing the roadblocks that have made it hard for foreign capital to break into the market. Finally, the wide-scale development of western China will open up even greater foreign investment opportunities.
The Chinese government will continue to ensure its long-term stability and will implement a foreign capital introduction policy designed to build a political climate favoring foreign investment. I am convinced that China’s strong material base, sound management, and excellent political climate will entice numerous foreign companies to invest in our country.

T.D.L.: At the Sixth China-EU Summit held in Beijing in late October 2003, Premier of the State Council Wen Jiabao said he would like to see China and the EU expand their strategic ties. In what specific areas could this be done? What does your country hope to accomplish through the creation of a trade policy dialogue mechanism? What are China and the EU doing to resolve their trade differences and open up their respective markets?

H.E.Z.J.: The Sixth China-EU Summit is an extremely important event in the history of Sino-European relations. As stressed in the joint declaration issued at the close of the summit, high-level political dialogue of this sort is highly productive, enabling us to hold deeper and broader talks in a wide variety of areas. The two parties share views on a good many international and regional issues of mutual interest. Our partnership is growing stronger by the day, as it steadily takes on greater strategic importance. China and the EU have signed an agreement confirming China’s cooperation in the Galileo program, as well as a memorandum of understanding concerning the visa regulations in countries welcoming Chinese tourists. The signing of these two accords is an important step forward in the campaign to enhance bilateral relations. The two parties have already set up a dialogue mechanism on industrial policy, to ensure that our industrialists operate within a fair and competitive climate and to promote the steady and sustained growth of Sino-EU trade. Trade between China and the EU has grown steadily in recent years. In future, this growth must be founded on parity and mutual advantage. Both parties have reiterated their desire to strengthen the bilateral dialogue and resolve all trade-related problems in a positive manner. Direct dialogue between the various professional sectors has played a key role in this area. China and Europe are increasing their cross investments. In addition, both parties have underscored the importance of meeting all their commitments under WTO regulations, which is in the best interest of both China and the European Union as well as the other members of the WTO. The European Union has also confirmed its intention of expanding its aid to China, by broadening the bilateral dialogue and augmenting cooperation projects in several key areas.

T.D.L.: China successfully launched its first manned space flight on 15 October 2003, becoming the world’s third country to send a man into space. Could you outline the main objectives of China’s space program, which has helped your country open up to greater international cooperation? Is the signing of the Galileo agreement the first step towards broader EU-China aerospace cooperation? Could you describe China’s involvement in the Galileo program for our readers?

H.E.Z.J.: China would like to broaden its knowledge of space and expand its aerospace technology. After the success of our first manned flight, over the coming fifteen years we intend to build our own space station, land on the moon, carry out earth observation missions, and set up a satellite telecommunications system. To that end, we are currently focusing our efforts on improving our satellite launchers.
Following the European Union’s initiative, and after two years of preparation work, in October 2003 China signed an agreement for Sino-EU  cooperation on the Galileo program. There should not be a monopoly on satellite navigation. Another satellite navigation system will give the world another choice, making transport easier and improving telecommunications all around the globe. China currently uses the GPS system. By participating in the Galileo program, it will  have a wider choice from now on.
Moreover, China will have the same rights and obligations as its partners in the Galileo program. The Chinese government is putting a great deal of effort into this program, encouraging research institutions and Chinese firms to cooperate with our European partners. This partnership focuses on the following three areas: research and development; bringing systems on line, which includes building satellites and land stations and launching satellites; using these systems in China’s telecommunications as well as its air, road, rail and river transportation networks, which constitute an enormous market.  

T.D.L.: On 27 January 2004, China and France celebrated the 40th anniversary of the opening of bilateral diplomatic ties. Have Sino-French relations gradually grown into a truly «global partnership»? As they steadily expand, are specific areas of Sino-French relations taking on special importance? How can bilateral cooperation be further strengthened in the economic, trade and technology arenas? Given the boom in tourism between our two countries, does this sector hold the greatest promise for increasing exchanges between the Chinese and French people in the 21st century?

H.E.Z.J.: The establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France, on 27 January 1964, was a historic event that opened a new chapter in the annals of bilateral relations. In 1997 our two countries forged a global partnership, marking another milestone in the history of Sino-French relations.
China continues to lay great importance on its relations with France. As multipolarization and economic globalization press unsteadily but resolutely forward, the situation on the world stage has become increasingly complex and unsettled. Both of our countries are highly influential in the world arena. They share common views and opinions on many key international issues. China and France both favor a multipolar world, and are against unilateralism. They are for dialogue, and against conflict. They both agree that different cultures can mutually complement each other and live side by side in harmony. They advocate strengthening the role of the United Nations, promoting sustainable development, stepping up North-South cooperation, and eradicating poverty.
Over the past forty years, we have seen highly fruitful Sino-French cooperation all across the board.  France was the first country to sign unprecedented agreements with China, such as our air transportation and mutual investment protection agreements. China’s first nuclear power plant was the product of Sino-French cooperation. The Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric power plant, uses French hydraulic turbine units. What’s more, French automobile makers were some of the very first Western manufacturers to begin working in China, when our country first launched its economic reforms and was just starting to open up to the rest of the world.
China and France are both renowned the world over for their ancient civilizations and cultural traditions. The legendary works of illustrious French authors such as Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas have made them very popular and greatly appreciated in China. The Chinese Cultural Center opened its doors one year ago on the banks of the Seine. It is the first center of its kind in Western Europe, serving as a bridge for cultural exchanges between our countries. The China-French Culture Years, a project jointly initiated by our two heads of State, got underway in Paris in October 2003. The French Culture Year in China will open next autumn. We are extremely delighted to see these two brilliant cultures shining all the brighter, thanks to their bilateral exchanges. Sino-French ties have held out great promise in the past as well as the present, and I am convinced they will be even brighter in the future.
If China and France have forged a global partnership, it is because we want to expand our cooperation in the political, economic and cultural arenas, and all other possible areas. We are continuing to strengthen and expand our cooperation, to ensure that our global partnership remains worthy of its name.
You rightfully underscored the importance of strengthening cooperation in the economic, trade, and technology arenas. Despite the great strides we have made over the past forty years, there undeniably remains a great deal more to be done in these areas. Among China’s European Union trading partners, France currently ranks just fourth. This is entirely out of step with our excellent political and cultural relations. We are going to have to step up our efforts considerably, to rectify this situation.
First of all, our two countries’ business communities need to get to know each other better. My interactions with French friends has led me to believe that French entrepreneurs are still unfamiliar with the Chinese market. Some believe that China still has a State-controlled planned economy, when in fact, a market economy system has already been widely implemented. The price of 95% of Chinese goods is pegged by the market. The mandatory plan for agricultural products has been eliminated. In the industrial sector, wood, gold, tobacco, cooking salt and natural gas are the only products still regulated by the mandatory plan.
Secondly, small and medium-sized businesses should be encouraged to cooperate inside both countries. While big French firms are already doing business in China, smaller French firms have been more hesitant. This is the perfect time to move into China, and make the most of existing cooperation opportunities. This is equally true for large firms, as well as medium-sized companies.
Thirdly, it is important to find a good jumping off point for starting up operations in China. Finding a good investment project in China’s coastal regions is very difficult right now, due to the extremely competitive climate. The country’s inland regions, on the other hand, are still in the economic conversion and takeoff stage. There are thus numerous cooperation opportunities yet to be seized in these regions, where investors who put forward optimal cooperation conditions having the best chance of success.
Fourthly, we need to pour more investment into bringing Chinese students to France. In the 1920s, a good number of Chinese students studied in France, including Deng Xiaoping and Zhu Enla, who went on to leave their mark on contemporary Chinese history. There are currently some 12,000 Chinese students in France, compared to over 30,000 in Germany, and over 60,000 in England. We must step up our efforts, and encourage more Chinese students to come to France. The very future of our bilateral cooperation is at stake here.
Finally, there can be no doubt that the boom in tourism between our two countries holds the greatest promise for increasing exchanges between our two peoples in the 21st century. At the Sino-EU Summit held on 30 October 2003 in Beijing, China and the European Union signed an agreement that will expand bilateral tourism cooperation. Since France is one of the most attractive destinations not only in Europe but in the world, I am sure that the promotional measures included in this agreement will spur an even sharper rise in the number of Chinese tourists visiting your country. 16 million Chinese traveled abroad last year, including 300,000 who came to France. The International Tourism Organization estimates that some 100 million Chinese will travel to foreign countries in 2020. Just imagine how many Chinese tourists will be visiting France at that time. We would, obviously, like to see more French tourists visit China. China had 220,000 French visitors in 2002. 270,000 Germans, 300,000 Britons and one million Americans visited China over this same period. We are hence encouraging more and more of our French friends to come and discover China. There is a Chinese proverb that says: «Seeing a thing once is better than hearing it a hundred times.» There is a great deal of talk right now about China and how it is changing and growing. This is a good time to come and see it in person. By increasing their direct contacts with each other, our two peoples will be able to build greater mutual understanding, which is absolutely essential to the long-term success of our various cooperation efforts.
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