Our Privacy Statement & Cookie Policy

By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies, revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can change your cookie settings through your browser.

I agree

Six decades of Sino-French relations: A pioneering journey in diplomacy

Wang Shuo , Xue Yuhao



Editor's note: Wang Shuo, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is a professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University. Xue Yuhao, a special commentator for CGTN, is a graduate student at Beijing Foreign Studies University. The article reflects the authors' views and not necessarily those of CGTN.

The year 2024 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-French diplomatic relations. On January 27, 1964, China and France issued a joint communique announcing the establishment of diplomatic relations, making France the first Western power to establish diplomatic relations with China.

For China, the establishment of diplomatic relations with France was an important step for China to break the diplomatic isolation of the West, to reach out to the world and to integrate into the current international system.

And for France, the establishment of diplomatic relations with China gave it greater autonomy at the diplomatic and strategic levels. Under the international system of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War, the establishment of relationships between China and France, two great powers from the East and West, beyond the barriers of political system and ideology, can be said to have "torn a crack in the impenetrable iron curtain," and this move has profoundly affected the international strategic balance and the pattern of great power relations.

Over the past 60 years, China and France have adhered to the spirit of "independence, mutual understanding, foresight, mutual benefit and win-win outcomes," which is the original aspiration of the establishment of Sino-French diplomatic relations. 

From the first comprehensive partnership to the opening of strategic dialogue, from the establishment of cultural centers to the organization of the Year of Culture, from the opening of the first civil aviation route between China and the West to the earliest cooperation in civil nuclear energy to the joint development of the third-party market, China-France relations have always been at the forefront of international relations.

A reception marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France was held at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, January 25, 2024. /CFP
A reception marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France was held at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, January 25, 2024. /CFP

A reception marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France was held at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, January 25, 2024. /CFP

Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron visited China. China and France held institutional dialogues on strategic balance, finance and treasury, and cultural exchanges, and signed dozens of agreements and contracts in the fields of aerospace, agri-food, scientific research, humanities, etc., and China-France cooperation has achieved rich results. Political mutual trust between the two countries has been further strengthened, bilateral trade has grown significantly, technical cooperation has progressed steadily, and humanistic exchanges have been deepened, continuing to energize China-France relations.

China-France friendly exchanges and cooperation can play a key leading role in promoting the development of China-EU and China-West relations. France has not only taken the lead in establishing a strategic partnership with China but has also led the formulation of the EU's policy towards China and promoted the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the EU by leveraging its prestige in the EU.

China-France relations are the wind vane and ballast of China-EU relations. In addition, the leadership of China-France relations is also manifested in the joint efforts of the two countries for the trend toward multipolarity and the democratization of international relations.

As permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and great powers with a sense of historical mission and responsibility, China and France have transcended bloc confrontation, sought common ground while reserving differences, jointly pushed for the conclusion of the Paris Agreement, successfully organized the China-France Forum on Global Governance, made a unanimous voice for a political solution to the Ukrainian crisis, and adhered to the two-state solution to Palestinian-Israeli issue. The friendly exchanges and cooperation between China and France have set an example for countries with different historical backgrounds, cultural traditions, political systems and levels of development around the world.

Today's world is in the midst of great changes that have not been seen in a century, how to clear the obstacles for China-France cooperation in the future, and promote the stability of Sino-French relations will test the breadth of mind and wisdom of the two countries.

First, China-France relations should be based on the two countries' pursuit of strategic autonomy. China and France are both great powers with independent foreign policies. Without strategic autonomy, it is impossible for the two countries to break the constraints of social systems, ideologies and alliances to establish diplomatic relations.

In the past, strategic autonomy was reflected in the resistance of China and France to the hegemony of the United States and the Soviet Union in their respective camps. In the present and future, strategic autonomy is reflected in resisting hegemony and power politics.

Second, China-France relations should adhere to the principles of equality, respect and mutual trust. It is true that there are differences in values, social systems and ideologies between China and France, but they share a wide range of common interests and similar perspectives on global issues such as climate change, regional peace and development assistance. Understanding and trusting each other, and seeking common ground while shelving and narrowing differences is the way forward.

Finally, China and France should continue to play a leading role. As Lu Shaye, Ambassador of China to France, said, "Better China-France relations will lead the development of China-EU relations; when China-EU relations are stable, half of China-West relations will be stable; and when China-West relations are stable, the world will be stable."

In the face of the deepening global governance deficit, the two countries should adhere to open and inclusive multilateralism, rather than turning to unilateralism. It can be said that it has always been, and will continue to be, incumbent upon China and France to demonstrate the role of a great power and maintain world peace and stability.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com. Follow @thouse_opinions on Twitter to discover the latest commentaries in the CGTN Opinion Section.)

Search Trends