01/29/2004, 00.00
china - france

Hu –Chirac Axis: putting the breaks on the U.S., doing more business

Paris (AsiaNews/Agencies) Before its departure for Africa China is reviewing benefits received from President Hu Jintao's trip to France. At yesterday's meeting in Paris with the most important businessmen in France and 14 major companies, 9 commercial and research agreements were signed, particularly in the electronics, nuclear energy and automobile sectors.   

Foreign affairs minister, Li Zhaoxing, called the meeting a success. Agreements between French and Chinese companies, like Peugeot–Citroen and Dongfeng in addition to the Saint–Gobain glass company and Float Glass Group of Luoyang. The electronics companies, Thomson and International TCL, are still negotiating the creation of a joint-venture.    

In terms of the research industry, agreements were signed with the French jet-engine producer, Snecma; with the French Atomic Energy Commission for a nuclear fusion project; and with the Pasteur Institute of Paris for joint research on epidemic diseases.      

Hu Jintao made it clear that the company, Alstom, has a good shot at beating out the Japanese and German competition for a project for high speed train service between Beijing and Shanghai. Patrick Kron, director of Alstom, said that the company intends on increasing its investments in China, from its current 350-500 million US dollars to 1 billion. On Tuesday Hu Jintao announced the purchasing of 21 Aircraft planes from France.

French politicians and analysts are rather skeptical about France's benefits from its meeting with Chinese leaders and are critical of Chirac. Jean Vincent Brisset, of the Institute of International Relations in Paris, spoke about the "dream of a great partnership with China to counterbalance American power."

Building close ties with China risks undermining relations with the United States, which yesterday criticized France's proposal to lift the arms  trade embargo imposed on China.

Even France's relations with Taiwan are on the rocks. Yesterday a group of activists demonstrated against Chirac in front of the French Embassy in Taipei. Chirac had said that Taiwan was "part of China" and called the island's referendum for independence a "serious error".  

France's moves these days seem directed at repairing a broken past. In 1992 France sold 60 Mirage fighter planes to Taiwan, sparking a diplomatic debacle with Beijing and the closing of the French consulate in Canton. Relations returned to normal only after 2 years. (MR)

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