10/12/2004, 00.00
china - france
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Chirac urges China to help France in balancing US power

The French president charms Chinese leaders avoiding human rights discussions.

Shanghai (AsiaNews/Agencies) - President Jacques Chirac used an official visit to China to boost economic ties with the emerging Asian superpower's market and avoiding almost completely any discussions on human rights abuses.

During his visit, which ends Tuesday, Chirac has gone out of his way to charm his hosts, quoting Chinese poetry and echoing Beijing's repeated calls for "mutual respect" in foreign relations.

Speaking yesterday at the Tongji University in Shanghai , Chirac urged China to play a more active role in the United Nations, where both countries are permanent members of the Security Council. Mr Chirac pressed France's argument for multiple sources of global influence, underscoring France's hopes of allying with China in an attempt to counterbalance the dominance of the United States.

Discussion of human rights abuses has been avoided, with Chirac instead discreetly handing over a list of imprisoned dissidents  - played down by French officials as a routine gesture by a visiting European leader. Even the names upon it remained a secret.

The French head of state also called for an end to the European Union's arms embargo against China -  imposed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on student protesters in Beijing  - describing it as "a measure motivated purely and simply by hostility."

EU foreign ministers failed to agree on lifting the 15-year-old embargo at a meeting in Luxembourg Monday, despite the strong French pressure.

Chirac and president Hu Jintao, presided over a weekend signing ceremony in Beijing at which French companies inked more than 20 new deals with local partners.

The deals included some euro 1.45 billion (1.80 billion US dollars) in transportation and hydroelectric contracts for Alstom SA. On Tuesday, Alstom said a consortium it leads won a 134 million euro (166 million US dollars) contract to supply trains for Shanghai's subway system. But Chirac's trip failed to produce a deal on a major high-speed railway link planned between Beijing and Shanghai, for which Alstom's TGV trains are up against Japan's bullet train technology.

In other deals, water and energy giant Suez SA clinched new Chinese water and waste treatment contracts worth euro 680 million (845 million US dollars) in the eastern coastal cities of Qingdao and Shanghai. Oil company Total SA finalized a deal to build 200 gas stations.

Airbus SAS also sealed six new passenger jet orders and confirmed another 20 that had been announced previously. But the Toulouse-based aircraft maker failed to sell the new A380 "superjumbo" to China -  confounding market rumors that it was poised to announce a deal for 10 of the 555-seater jets. In terms of foreign direct investment, France still lags behind other major European partners in China. By the end of 2003, France had invested 6.1 billion US dollars (euro 4.9 billion), compared with Germany's 8.9 billion US dollars (euro 7.2 billion) and Britain's 11.4 billion US dollars (euro 9.2 billion), Chinese trade ministry figures show.
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See also
China participates in G7 meeting
Petition to Chinese Parliament: free bishops and priests
List of bishops and priests in prison, isolation or labour camps
Estimated statistics for the Catholic Church in China (2004)*
China says anti-secession law would authorise war as "last resort" against Taiwan


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