Sino-French joint statement: Candid dialogue and pragmatic cooperation Chinese President Xi Jinping holds talks with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, April 6, 2023. /Xinhua

At the invitation of President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China, French President Emmanuel Macron paid a state visit to China from April 5 to 7, 2023. The two governments signed a joint statement, aiming to open up new prospects for Sino-French cooperation and seek new impetus for the development of Sino-European relations. The Sino-French joint statement has 51 clauses, covering politics, security, economy, culture, international cooperation and other fields. Strengthening political dialogue and promoting political mutual trust are the top priorities of the Sino-French joint statement. Among them, there are three points worthy of attention.

First of all, the joint statement pointed out that China and France will continue the annual meeting mechanism between the two heads of state while emphasizing the importance of high-level exchanges and strategic dialogues, high-level economic and financial dialogues, and high-level people-to-people and cultural exchanges mechanisms for the development of bilateral cooperation. This means that after three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, China and France will fully resume political exchanges in various fields and strengthen political dialogue.

The current international situation is turbulent and the global economic recovery is sluggish. It is of great significance to strengthen the political dialogue between China and France. The political mutual trust between China and France has a profound historical foundation. During the Cold War, France pursued a foreign policy independent of the United States and NATO and was the first major Western country to establish formal diplomatic relations with China. Against the background of the current strategic game between China and the United States, France is actively seeking European strategic autonomy. In matters of China policy, France and the United States have different interests. Macron is critical of the U.S. President Joe Biden administration’s tough policy toward China, opposes the decoupling of China and Europe, and advocates an independent stand. Seeking common ground while reserving differences through political dialogue, mutual benefit and win-win results are the basis for the development of bilateral relations between China and France.

Second, the joint statement involves Sino-French military cooperation for the first time. The joint statement pointed out that China and France agreed to deepen exchanges on strategic issues, especially deepen the dialogue between the Southern Theater of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Pacific Ocean area of ​​the French army, and strengthen mutual understanding on international and regional security issues. This mechanism provides a communication channel for China and France to manage differences in the military field.

Unlike the United States, EU countries have no clear geopolitical interests in and around the South China Sea. On the question of the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits, EU countries have always held a cautious attitude. After the outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the importance of security issues such as the situation in the Taiwan Straits has increased in the EU’s China policy, which has brought uncertainty to China-EU relations. In the joint statement, France reiterated its adherence to the one-China principle. China and France are willing to promote the continuous development of the China-France comprehensive strategic partnership based on mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and major interests.

Third, China and France have enhanced political mutual trust, which has released a positive signal of dialogue and cooperation for the development of China-EU relations. The joint statement pointed out that China is committed to developing China-EU relations, encouraging high-level exchanges, promoting consensus on strategic issues, increasing personnel exchanges, jointly responding to global challenges, and promoting economic cooperation in an active and balanced manner. As a member of the European Union, France agrees with the above direction and will contribute to it.

China-EU relations have experienced a low point in the past three years. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated EU countries’ negative perception of China, and China-EU political and people-to-people exchanges have been affected. The transatlantic partnership has strengthened since the Russia-Ukraine conflict erupted. China’s balanced stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict is seen in Europe as a “negative” factor in the international peace and security order. Economic competition and institutional confrontation are the focus of discussions on the EU’s China policy at this stage. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen advocates moving closer to the U.S.’s tough line toward China, demanding that possible risks in China-EU relations be removed. In terms of strategy toward China, there are also differences within the German ruling coalition.

Based on historical reasons, the development of Germany’s China policy is constrained by American factors. France adheres to an independent foreign policy, opposes confrontation between camps, and advocates unity and cooperation to maintain the stability of relations between major powers. German-French cooperation is the engine of European integration, and the direction of German-French policies toward China has an important impact on the development of the EU’s China policies. Germany and China are important economic and global strategic partners.

Over the past years, the leaders of China and Europe have had frequent interactions. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, European Council President Charles Michel, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, French President Macron and European Commission President Von der Leyen visited China successively, intending to “restore” diplomatic and economic ties with China. China and the EU are each other’s important cooperative partners. Candid dialogue and pragmatic cooperation are conducive to the steady development of China-EU relations and the stability of the global situation. – CGTN

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