Hollande's visit expected to open new chapter
Updated: 2013-04-25 02:44
By LI XIANG in Paris and ZHOU WA in Beijing (China Daily)
French President Francois Hollande will arrive in Beijing for his first official visit to China on Thursday to pave the way for stronger bilateral exchanges.
His visit is expected to open a new chapter in bilateral ties, which have experienced ups and downs over the past few years, observers said.
French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius (left), President Francois Hollande (center) and Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici attend a government strategic investments meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on Wednesday. Philippe Wojazer / Reuters
Accompanied by a political and business delegation of nearly 100 people, Hollande will meet with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. He will also address a China-France business forum.
The two-day visit will also take him to Shanghai, where he will deliver a keynote speech at Shanghai Jiao Tong University on the global challenges facing France and China.
A major objective of Hollande's visit will be to establish a high-level political dialogue between the two countries, a senior French diplomat said.
"France considers China a global strategic partner. So implementing regular, high-level dialogue with China on major political and economic issues will be high on the agenda of Hollande's visit," said Christian Lechervy, special foreign affairs adviser to the French president.
Hollande will be the first head of state from a major Western nation to visit China since China's leadership transition in March.
The visit will pave way for preparations for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries next year.
The debut of China's new leadership in March and the 50th anniversary celebrations offer a good chance for the two countries to improve ties, said Ding Chun, a professor in European studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.
According to Lechervy, there will be no surprises in the messages Hollande intends to deliver to China. Paris aims to have a candid dialogue with Beijing without letting its domestic politics influence its external strategy, he said.
Paul Jean-Ortiz, Hollande's diplomatic adviser, said France intends to establish a closer, more solid strategic partnership with China in all major areas.
"It is necessary for the world's second-largest and fifth-largest economies to have direct and close relations based on mutual trust," he said.
Wu Baiyi, a European studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said a rapidly developing China brings many opportunities to the world, and France hopes to seize these opportunities to boost its economic development.
"France plays a very important role in Europe. China-France ties can contribute as an example for China's relations with other European countries, which is politically important for China", Wu said.
Hollande will try to rebalance trade and investment relations with Beijing, with the French government under pressure to narrow its trade deficit with China.