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Macron's visit to China seen to boost ties

By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels | China Daily | Updated: 2023-04-12 06:58

Experts voice optimism in improving relations, countering decoupling ideas

French President Emmanuel Macron's state visit to China last week has been applauded as a great success in promoting peace and cooperation.

Erik Solheim, former under-secretary-general of the United Nations and former executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said that the relationship between Europe and China is critical for peace, environment and economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.

"President Macron's visit to Beijing provides a lot of optimism for improving relations and a strong counternarrative to all negative decoupling ideas. Trade and cooperation will increase," he said, referring to Macron's words last week that he opposes moves to decouple from the world's second-largest economy.

Solheim, a Norwegian politician, said that Europe, led by France, and China, can be partners in peace. He added that the huge Chinese diplomatic success in bringing Iran and Saudi Arabia together and moving toward a settlement of the Yemen crisis was a brilliant backdrop for a most successful visit.

During Macron's three-day visit to China, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian agreed in Beijing on Thursday to resume their diplomatic relations and reopen embassies in each other's country within 60 days.

The thaw in relations between the two former archrivals in the Middle East has raised hopes of putting an end to the yearslong Yemen conflict, a de facto proxy war between the two countries.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who served as French prime minister from 2002 to 2005 under then-president Jacques Chirac, accompanied Macron during the visit. "I participated in more than 20 Sino-French state visits. The one just made by the French President (Macron) seems to be one of the most important," he said in a tweet on Sunday.

Former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr also weighed in on Monday, relating Macron's message to Australia's situation.

"Europe will avoid involvement in Taiwan says Macron. Not Europe's fight. A message to Canberra to ignore ridiculous talk about NATO in Asia," he said in a tweet on Monday.

In an interview on his flight from Beijing to Guangzhou, Macron told the media that Europe should not get caught in a crisis between China and the United States over the Taiwan question.

Tomasz Michalski, associate professor of the Economics and Decision Science Department at HEC Paris, said that the European Union nations' recent growth model is based on the peace dividend after the Cold War and worldwide trade.

Mutual cooperation

"France sees the solution to many important world problems, such as energy transition and limiting climate change and lowering Earth's pollution, as only possible through mutual cooperation," Michalski said.

A 51-point joint declaration between China and France issued on Friday covers a wide range of areas for cooperation, from strengthening political dialogue, promoting political mutual trust, global security and stability to economic exchanges to relaunching human and cultural exchanges and jointly responding to global challenges.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen joined Macron on the China visit, her first visit to China since assuming the post.

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