|Special Friends, Win-win Partners|
By H.E. Xi Jinping
My three-day state visit to France will start today. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France. I have chosen this timing to underscore my desire to review our achievements, renew our friendship, chart our future so as to bring the relationship to a new high.
Fifty years ago, in a display of extraordinary strategic vision and unparalleled political courage, Chairman Mao Zedong and General Charles de Gaulle moved our two great countries to a handshake, setting a fine example in the world for countries with differing social systems to live peacefully together and engage in win-win cooperation. The major and far-reaching impact of the event on international strategic landscape has continued to live on.
- The past 50 years saw the leaders of our two countries make stronger China-France relations a priority in the respective diplomatic agenda, acting independently and with a global vision, and opening a new page for sound interactions between the world's major countries. France is the first major Western country to have established diplomatic relations with New China at the ambassadorial level. It is also the first major Western country to have established the comprehensive strategic partnership and institutionalized the strategic dialogue with China.
- The past 50 years saw our two countries conduct multiple pioneering cooperation and constantly enrich the strategic content of bilateral relations. France is the first Western country to engage in civil nuclear energy cooperation with China, the first Western country to sign an inter-governmental science and technology cooperation agreement with China, and the first Western country to open direct flights with China. Now there are nearly 60 flights operating between China and France each week.
- The past 50 years saw our two countries promote uninterrupted cultural and people-to-people exchanges, bringing the two splendid civilizations together and shortening the distance between the two peoples in their hearts. France is the first country to exchange with China in hosting the cultural year and setting up cultural centers. It is also the first major Western country to conduct youth exchanges with China. Right now, the number of young Chinese studying French totals over 100 thousand, while the number of French studying Chinese over 45 thousand. That number is still increasing steadily.
Confucius once said, "at the age of 50, one knows the mandate of Heaven." China-France relations of the past 50 years have given us much useful experience and inspirations to maintain our special friendship and make further progress to our mutual benefit. It is our shared belief that mutual respect, mutual trust and treating each other with sincerity are the necessary precondition for the sound and stable growth of China-France relations. Taking pioneering steps while keeping pace with the times is a key asset for China-France relations to always stay ahead in China's relations with Western countries. Mutual benefit, win-win and inclusiveness are the basic point of departure to ensure that the relationship can deliver long-term gains to the two peoples. Acting independently but ready to seek common ground while shelving differences is the philosophical foundation for the two countries to coordinate and cooperate in international affairs. And taking on global challenges as fellow passengers sharing a common stake is the abiding commitment of the two countries to peace and development of mankind despite international vicissitudes.
The Chinese value "combining learning with practice", while the French believe that "forging iron makes one a blacksmith". Both highlight the need to turn idea into action. During the three-day visit, I will exchange views extensively with President François Hollande and other French leaders. We will issue a new joint statement and a plan for medium- and long-term cooperation. I believe we will reach some new consensus that is important. China and France, as each other's comprehensive strategic partner, ought to treat each other with mutual respect and mutual trust, work closely and innovatively, and continue to take the lead in growing China-EU relations and China's relations with Western countries.
As permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and France have on their shoulders the historical mission of upholding world peace and promoting common development. They have the capability and wisdom to make good proposals and good initiatives to advance world multi-polarity and democracy in international relations, to bring international hotspot issues onto the track of peaceful settlement and to jointly tackle terrorism, climate change and other global challenges.
As the world's two major economies, China and France have many converging interests and a high degree of complementarity. They need to unlock their cooperation potential more fully, deepen their integration of interests in such traditional areas of cooperation as nuclear power, aviation, space and automobile by exploring joint R&D, joint investment and joint development of the market of third countries, and create new bright spots of bilateral cooperation in agriculture, foodstuff, finance, digitalization and other new areas.
Both as advocates of inclusiveness, China and France will actively explore new approaches to enhanced cultural and people-to-people exchanges so as to deepen the mutual understanding of the two peoples. The two sides will continue to hold popular activities to commemorate the 50th anniversary of China-France diplomatic relations, encourage greater exchanges of students and tourists, and take new steps to facilitate personnel visits.
China has now entered a new development stage of comprehensively deepening reform and opening still wider to the outside world. The country is committed to realizing the "two centenary" goals and the Chinese dream of great renewal of the Chinese nation by advancing the new type of industrialization, IT application, urbanization and agricultural modernization. France, on its part, is stepping up its structural reform while working to ensure growth, boost competitiveness, expand employment and fulfill the new French dream. Both China and France are reform-minded nations. As long as we seize the opportunities and support each other, our path of cooperation will yield even richer fruits and China-France relations will embrace yet another 50 years of proud success.
Before coming to France, I have already visited the Netherlands and will soon go to Germany, Belgium and the EU headquarters. The reason I have decided to spend 11 days to visit Europe at the beginning of the spring season is because I attach great importance to the EU and China-EU relations and I am a staunch supporter of European integration. Both at the crucial stage of their respective development, China and the EU are now faced with new opportunities to develop their relations. The two sides need to deepen their win-win cooperation in finance, infrastructure development, the new type of urbanization, new energy, scientific and technological innovation, energy conservation, environmental protection and other areas, and move still faster in their negotiations for a China-EU investment treaty.
At the same time, we should respect each other's choice on development path, properly manage our trade disputes through equal-footed dialogue and friendly consultations, and achieve a steady and healthy development of China-EU relations. This will not just benefit our peoples, but contribute to world peace and prosperity, and exert an influence that goes beyond China and Europe and assumes a global significance.
Affinity grows as exchange of visits increases. I look forward to in-depth exchanges with the French government and friends from across the French society for win-win results.