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China leery of Sarkozy's outstretched hand

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1 China leery of Sarkozy's outstretched hand on Tue May 04, 2010 7:33 pm


May 5, 2010

China leery of Sarkozy's outstretched hand
By Jian Junbo

SHANGHAI - French President Nicolas Sarkozy struck a note at once conciliatory and pragmatic, extending a hand for China's cooperation on the big issues of the 21st century on his first visit to China since the ice melted on relations frozen by his support for the Free Tibet movement.

Serious challenges, such as climate change, economic crisis and reform of global institutions, cannot be solved without China's input, Sarkozy said in a state visit on the way to attending the opening ceremony of the Shanghai 2010 World Expo. The three-day visit, from April 28, was his fourth to China but the first since relations between the two nations were strained by Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama in December 2008, which led an angry Beijing to cancel a Sino-European Union summit, and

controversy over his stance on the Summer Olympic Games in the Chinese capital earlier that year.

Even before his meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, his open support to Free Tibet activists dogging the Beijing Olympic torch relay in Paris offended Beijing and many Chinese people called for a boycott of French products and businesses in China, especially the retail giant Carrefour. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao bypassed France, apparently deliberately, during his "confidence-building tour" of Europe in late 2008.

The two countries didn't resume normal diplomatic relations until April 2009, when Chinese President Hu Jintao met Sarkozy on the sidelines of a China-EU summit in Prague. In this meeting they released a joint statement in which France promised to adhere to a one-China policy, proclaiming that Tibet was an inseparable part of China's territory and promised not to support any kind of activities calling for Tibet's independence.

In view of the unstable relationship between China and France, Sarkozy's latest visit marked the normalization of the two countries' "comprehensive strategic relationship", at least in form.

From China's point of view, Sarkozy's willingness to fully restore "friendly relations" is firstly based on the realistic realization of the two nations' mutual dependence, especially economically and financially. China is reportedly now France's largest trading partner in Asia. Hit by the global financial crisis, France, like most European countries, suffered enormous economic pain.

On the other hand, China's economy has quickly recovered, helped by a huge state stimulus package. France therefore can benefit from China's recovery since China is one of its most important economic partners. Typically, China has the potential to buy more French goods and technology. According to the Ministry of Commerce, China recorded a trade deficit of US$7.7 billion in the first quarter of this year. And, in 2009, China replaced Germany as the second-largest importer in the global market after the United States. This is certainly good news for Western enterprises eager to sell their products or services to China.

Hence, accompanying Sarkozy were executives of France's 20 big trans-national enterprises. During his meeting with Hu Jintao in Beijing on April 28, Sarkozy explicitly urged China to buy French nuclear power technology and equipment. He told Hu that he hoped the two countries could sign an agreement on cooperation over civilian nuclear power on Hu's visit to France in autumn.

It seems Sarkozy is now aware of the objectives France shares with China. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, especially the diversification of the international financial system, there are common goals for both governments. Sarkozy talked, for example, about reforms that France was considering to build a new international financial system through cooperation with China. Although the two countries' leaders have yet to sign any formal economic agreement, some economic cooperation can be anticipated. The rising influence and importance of China in international affairs also stimulated Sarkozy to normalize and promote Sino-France relations.

Apart from the common economic and strategic interests that both countries can gain from cooperation, Sarkozy's own political interests are set to benefit from this visit to China since he can "amplify" his international political prestige through the lens of China as a rising power.

France will be the host country of the Group of 8 and the Group of 20 next year. Sarkozy would like to act as a global leader at both events, and China, as a rising power with increasing influence in the world, especially in developing countries, could be a very good prop for him to perform on the international stage. Clearly, a person who joins with China in addressing a new economic order will enjoy an influential standing in the world.

In short, the importance of China for French economic interests as well as for Sarkozy's personal political prestige pushed him to visit China, even though he was perceived to have humiliated the country in 2008.

However, even if Sarkozy has promised that Paris will end the unhappiness and misunderstanding between the countries, Beijing will wait to see if he honors his pledges.

China's suspicion is based on Sarkozy's choice to offend Beijing in 2008 through his support of Free Tibet activists and in meeting the Dalai Lama. At that time, China was also a very important economic and strategic partner for France, both at the bilateral and international levels. So the Chinese can't immediately understand what the true motivation is behind Sarkozy's change of heart now.

Sarkozy is believed in some circles to have been opportunist towards China. When he came to power in 2007 he paid a friendly visit to Beijing; then after the Lhasa riot in Tibet in early 2008, he expressed support and sympathy for those calling for Tibetan independence. He then said Beijing must open dialogue with the Dalai Lama before he would attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, but he eventually showed up without the precondition being met; then in October of that year he attended an Asia-Europe summit held in Beijing and met Chinese leaders, but after he left Beijing he quickly met the Dalai Lama.

When Beijing postponed the France-hosted EU-China summit, Sarkozy moved to ease tensions by proclaiming that Tibet was a part of China and promised not to support Tibetan independence.

Given all this, Sarkozy's visit cannot be seen as a decisive change in Paris' policy toward China - unstable relations cannot change into a sustainable strategic partnership in a matter of days. For China, Sarkozy is still a person who should be observed and assessed by his future policies toward China.

2 Re: China leery of Sarkozy's outstretched hand on Tue May 04, 2010 11:59 pm


Sarkozy talked, for example, about reforms that France was considering
to build a new international financial system through cooperation with

Clearly, a person who joins with China in addressing a new economic
order will enjoy an influential standing in the world.

LK...This goes in line with what we talk about on the phone...china has their foot in the Euro door now! Love it when you find articles that say what we already brained stormed...GREAT FIND LK!! YOUR THE BEST!!

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