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Beijing, Paris eye visits, trade

By Zhang Yunbi | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-25 08:05
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Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) and visiting French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna attend a ceremony on Friday in Beijing to launch the 2024 China-France Culture and Tourism Year. WANG ZHUANGFEI/CHINA DAILY

Senior diplomats' packed schedule of events yields fruitful outcomes

Senior diplomats from China and France on Friday highlighted the need for a self-reliant approach in shaping their ties, greater trade and exchanges of visits and jointly tackling global challenges in a world full of turmoil.

These messages stood out at a news conference held by Foreign Minister Wang Yi and visiting French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna in Beijing on Friday evening.

Relations between China and France enjoy a legacy of resilience and an enterprising spirit, "showing a strong strategic nature and a leading role in a world of turmoil and changes", Wang said.

Colonna, who was visiting China from Thursday to Friday, said: "Our message is simple: Welcome to France. We are committed to welcoming you better, with more frequent flights and the issuance of visas under better conditions."

Premier Li Qiang met with the French foreign minister on Friday, and said that both sides should take care of each other's core interests and major concerns, and join hands to address global challenges such as climate change.

Next year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties, and it is also the China-France Culture and Tourism Year. The two sides decided on Friday to ensure the success of these celebrations.

The two foreign ministers first went to Peking University on Friday afternoon to co-chair the 6th meeting of the China-France dialogue mechanism on people-to-people exchanges, and they jointly unveiled the China-France carbon neutrality center.

They then went to the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, ahead of dinner, for bilateral talks.

After briefly meeting the media, they held the second phase of their talks in the evening.

The whirlwind meetings yielded fruitful outcomes. Wang said the two sides released a list including 16 major people-to-people cultural exchanges.

Colonna announced that France "will issue longer visas to Chinese postgraduate students" going to her country. She appreciated Beijing's decision to offer visa-free entry to travelers from France for a single stay of no more than 15 days.

The two sides "will create new channels of exchange and dialogue" in addition to the three existing dialogues on strategy, economy and finance, and people-to-people exchanges, according to Wang.

Speaking on trade and investment, Wang said that China is willing to work with France to make the supply chain "from French farms to Chinese dinner tables" a good example of China-France cooperation.

"China is willing to provide opportunities for more French enterprises to develop in China, and hopes that France will continue to provide a favorable business environment for Chinese enterprises," he added.

Currently, France is China's third-largest trading partner and the third-largest source of actual investment in the European Union, and China is France's top trading partner in Asia and the seventh-largest in the world.

Annual bilateral trade increased to $81.2 billion last year, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Observers said that behind the progress made in 60 years of China-France relations is full respect for each other's core interests and major concerns.

Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye told a forum earlier this month that Beijing and Paris should seek greater cooperation rather than "decoupling" or not interacting, because "de-risking" means "de-cooperation", which will "create the risk of mutual misunderstanding, suspicion and miscalculation".

Su Xiaohui, an associate research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, noted that seeking "strategic autonomy" and "mutually beneficial collaboration" have been two key phrases high on the agenda between Beijing and Paris in their recent discussions and official talks.

"As China talks about opening up and expecting greater investment in France, it looks to more engagement and contacts with the world to yield more mutually beneficial outcomes," she said.

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the European Union, and observers have expressed concerns over voices within the EU calling for protectionism and "decoupling" with China.

"As long as China and the EU join hands, bloc-based confrontation will not occur, the world will not fall apart, and a new Cold War will not take place," Wang told reporters.

China firmly supports Europe moving toward unity and self-reliance, and "has always believed that Europe is an indispensable part of the multipolar world and one of the vital poles in global stability", he added.

"In the face of the challenges of division, conflict and unilateralism, the need for and importance of enhancing mutual understanding has become even more pronounced," Colonna said during her talks with Wang.

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