French President Emmanuel Macron was on a state visit to China at the very beginning of 2018, which not only made him the first European leader to visit China since last fall's 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, but also marked his first state visit to Asia since he won the election last year.
After he took office, Macron sent the diplomatic signal that Paris would continue to talk to every country that is willing to, but would not paper over any disagreement. His diplomatic policy is seeking to restore France's status on the world stage and remaining committed to European integration. Compared to his predecessor, Macron is gifted with better diplomatic skills, unique diplomatic assertiveness, outstanding ability of communicating with foreign leaders, comprehensive knowledge of global issues and the enthusiasm to promote economic reforms.
The success of Macron's diplomatic policy depended on domestic reform. He is trying to bring France back on track after years of economic and social stagnation and to inject new impetus into European integration. His major approach to promote domestic reform is developing a new labor law, having it issued in the form of a presidential decree so as to circumvent the obstruction of French parliament and unions. Macron lays special emphasis on defending the vital interests of France, re-establishing the ties between the French government and its citizens. According to statistics released by the European Commission, the rate of economic growth in France was 1.6 percent in 2017, lower than average in the EU and the eurozone, with an unemployment rate of 9.5 percent. France is gradually picking up, but still far from restoring normalcy.
China-France relations are a pioneering trial through which China is building a new model for major-country relations. China is France's largest trading partner in Asia, while France is China's third-largest investment destination in the EU. Bilateral trade and investment cooperation is focused on energy, automobiles, aviation and medicine.
China-France ties are not only significant in bilateral areas, but also in multilateral fields and at a regional level. In bilateral areas, France is the first major country in Europe to build a partnership with China, as well as the first major country in the West to develop a comprehensive strategic partnership with China.
In multilateral fields, both as permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and France are investing joint efforts in building a multipolar world, a new type of international relations and a community of shared future for humanity.
At the regional level, the French government led by Macron is playing an active role in the EU, injecting new impetus for further European integration, which China is also proactively supporting. China-France relations play a significant role in deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the EU.
Bilateral cooperation is strengthened in global governance. Both advocates of independence and multilateralism, China and France are strengthening bilateral cooperation in global governance, focusing on climate change and energy cooperation. The Belt and Road initiative also provides an opportunity for the two countries to enhance bilateral cooperation, cooperation under the regional framework as well as trilateral cooperation.
The promotion of globalization and global governance is confronted by challenges, while the Belt and Road initiative as well as the idea of building a community of shared future for humanity proposed by China injects a new impetus into globalization.
Macron has shown an interest in the Belt and Road initiative, seeking to bring France and the EU back on track through the development of this initiative, to inject new momentum into European integration and to promote interconnectivity in the Eurasian region.
China and France are also enhancing bilateral cooperation by boosting people-to-people exchanges. Education and culture are two major fields in which the two countries are developing a comprehensive strategic partnership. Not only the number of Chinese in France ranks first in Europe, but also the depth and the width of bilateral cooperation in people-to-people exchanges tops the list.
Cooperation in people-to-people exchanges for one thing brings China's voice to France, and for another, offers China the chance to learn from France, a pioneer in modernization and a significant source of knowledge and culture for China.
China and France have entered a new stage of bilateral ties. On the basis of dialogue on an equal footing, it is expected that the two countries are able to cultivate complementary cultures, realize peaceful development and produce mutual benefits and a win-win outcome.
The author is an associate research fellow at the Institute of European Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.