Xi's awakened lion claim rings true for France

Envoy Sylvie Bermann echoes Xi Jinping's words from state visit, but says Paris hopes for more action on trade deficit and climate change

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 April, 2014, 3:40am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 April, 2014, 3:40am

President Xi Jinping's visit to France last month, during which a raft of business and bilateral deals were sealed, showed China "was an awakened lion, but a peaceful one", says France's top envoy to China.

Sylvie Bermann was echoing an analogy Xi made in a speech to an audience that included French President Francois Hollande. He compared China to an awakened lion, albeit one that was "peaceful, pleasant and civilised".

Bermann said she was surprised by the analogy. "I was a bit struck by the expression," she said at the French embassy in Beijing. "But I think it's a beautiful expression. When a new company opens in China, there is always a lion dance, and people are smiling and feeling peaceful."

Xi's 10-day "very successful" visit produced tangible economic, political and cultural benefits, she said.

The state visit saw major bilateral trade deals signed. French aviation giant Airbus signed a deal to sell China 70 jets worth more than US$10 billion. In addition, some 50 trade agreements were finalised or advanced in sectors including nuclear energy, finance and car manufacturing.

Bermann said she did not believe an increasing reliance on Chinese business presented any political dilemmas because a framework for bilateral dialogue was in place. During Xi's visit, the two countries discussed "all regional crises including Ukraine, Iran, Syria, a little bit of Afghanistan, and also Africa".

Beijing and Paris issued a mid to long-term blueprint for the development of ties, pledging to enhance co-ordination on key global and regional issues, jointly respond to challenges such as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and their delivery, as well as cybersecurity, she said.

The two nations pledged to continue to meet each year, and exchange ideas on major bilateral and global issues of common concern at multilateral events.

The two would also promote the role of a high-level dialogue in the event of trade disputes, with Bermann noting a "huge French trade deficit".

"China's investment in France is very welcome. We don't mean we want less Chinese imports, we just want to export more to China," she said. "And there is an agreement on that issue."

Last year, the France's trade deficit with China hit €26 billion (HK$280 billion), accounting for about 40 per cent of the country's total foreign trade deficit.

France was also pressing China for a concrete commitment to set an emissions reduction target for the United Nations climate change summit to be held in Paris next year, she said.

"We raised the topic with Xi and he agreed it was a global issue, but refused to give a precise answer as to how much emissions they would cut, saying he was facing the issue at home as well," she said. "We're still talking to different countries, but we consider that China is very important because without China we can't do much."

China has been a leader in renewable energy investment and is in the process of launching a national carbon tradings market.