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The intimate and elevated China-France relations

Reality Check


Editor's note: Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in France and began his state visit. What does China-France relationship mean to the people? From historic relics sites to vacation spots, from home appliances to food and wine, we dive into it and find the answer.

They say there's a train station here, an old train station apparently, among apartment buildings. So, just going to keep going and try and find it. So, this is the one?

This is Dazhimen Railway Station, or Hankou Railway Station. Well, at least it used to have that function. The station is located in Jiang'an District in the city of Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei Province. Designed by French architects, the station became operationalized in 1903. It was the largest train stations in Asia in the early 20th century. Today, decommissioned and named a national key protected cultural relic, it sits peacefully between an elevated expressway, apartment buildings, corner shops, and people passing by paying little or no attention to it.

For many Chinese or French, that's perhaps what the other country means: One that's far away, but part of daily life. For Chinese, France could be a place for vacation; Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 2 million Chinese tourists visited France each year. It was the most popular travel destination in Europe for them. Or probably wine; China is a major French wine importer. Nearly 30 percent of Chinese wine imports are from France.

For French people, China could mean employment. So far, Chinese investors have invested in over 900 French companies, employing over 50,000 local employees in France. Or, interestingly enough, a 210-year-old castle in France had chosen to use full set of Haier appliances.

The familiarity and intimacy between China and France had its foundation laid 60 years ago. In 1964, France became the first major Western country to establish formal diplomatic relations with China at the ambassadorial level. Air France was the first European carrier to operate in China. France was, in a sense, a gateway between China and the West. Today, it plays a similar role. France is the first Western country to engage in civil nuclear energy cooperation with China. And in an increasingly anti-China West led by the United States, France has been firm in its position. French President Emmanuel Macron said that "Europe must reduce its dependency on the United States. The great risk Europe faces is that it gets caught up in crises that are not ours. And this prevents it from building its strategic autonomy." "We want to have the best possible relationship with China. We want and we have to work with China to fix climate change, biodiversity crisis and a lot of conflicts in this world ... We want to find the right way to respect each other," he said.

That independence of mind helps keep the China-France relations smooth. Today, France is China's third-largest trading partner and third-largest source of real investments in the European Union. China is France's largest trading partner outside the European Union. Over 1,000 new French companies grow their business in China every year. Airbus A320’s second final assembly line project in Tianjin was launched in 2023. In sensitive areas such as chips and high-tech, we've seen Europe's second-largest chip maker STMicroelectornics developing a joint venture in Chongqing. In many ways, the French stand on their own two feet.

Serge Gachot, Director of Paris Motor Show, said in an interview that the European Commission's decision to launch investigation into China's electric vehicle export is European Commission's decision and that "it's not like there is lobbying from France or France OEMs. It's an independent decision of the European Commission." "And I think for the end customer, the more choices innovation offer, the bigger the offer, the better it is for the end consumer, and also probably cheaper. It makes the prices also go down," he said. Managing Director of Sodexo Greater China Isabelle HANNEDOUCH said that "I think there is a lot in common between France and China. We know this year is on top of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations. I think being a French company involved in a food environment, there's even more connection because we know that this is probably something that China and France have a lot in common, the love of food, and how important it is in daily life."

Like the Dazhimen station I showed you at the beginning of the video, this relationship has made enormous impacts on our day-to-day lives. Sometimes we might not think of it, but this is a relationship that has a great history and even greater potential. And perhaps it is this kind of relationship – one that’s both intimate and elevated – that lasts long.

(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.)

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