French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe began his four-day visit to China in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province on Friday, with experts saying that the frequent official exchanges between China and France show that the two countries are making efforts to overcome common challenges.
French President Emmanuel Macron visited China in January. Experts said the frequent communication and exchanges between Chinese and French political leaders show that both countries not only express their common stance on globalization and countering protectionism but also work together to seek solutions and countermeasures.
"The international situation is changing, and China and France share the pressure from rising protectionism and counter-globalization." So, the two countries are frequently reciprocating visits among its senior officials and leaders, said Cui Hongjian, director of the China Institute of International Studies' Department of European Studies.
Before Philippe left France for China, he met Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Thursday in Paris, according to news.gov.hk, the official website of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Lam told Philippe she looks forward to working with different sectors in France to seize opportunities under the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative.
On May 16, China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited France and met at the Élysée Palace in Paris with Foreign Policy Adviser to the President of France Philippe Etienne and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
"The EU is also facing internal challenges, such as disputes between member states over issues like immigration. As a key member of the EU, the French prime minister's trip might also be meant to show stability and unity within the EU to China," Cui said.
In an interview with Chinese financial news website yicai.com, Philippe said he will bring a concrete list of projects on cooperation in the Belt and Road initiative to Beijing.
"These projects underwent consultations with relevant French institutes and departments, and we are capable of implementing these projects," he said.
On trade and globalization, France found the US under the Trump administration is unreliable, so it has to boost cooperation with China, and French companies can find opportunities in the Belt and Road initiative, said Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University.
Philippe will also visit Beijing and Shanghai, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. He will hold dialogues on the economic, political and international aspects of the partnership, the French Prime Minister's office said on Thursday, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Shenzhen as opening-up symbol
Philippe will be accompanied by ministers, officials and business leaders, including those from digital business, a promising sector for cooperation between the two countries. He will visit the new DS7 production line of PSA, France's main carmaker, and meet the French tech community and Chinese startups in Shenzhen.
Philippe arrived in Shenzhen on Friday, and is his first visit to China since becoming prime minister. He is the second Western leader to visit Shenzhen in a month, Chinese news portal website thepaper.com reported on Friday. German Chancellor Angel Merkel visited Shenzhen in May.
"Aside from scientific and innovation advantages, which will attract foreign investment, Shenzhen is also a symbol of China's opening-up. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Opening-up and Reform. European leaders might want to visit Shenzhen as a sign to Chinese leaders," Cui said. "They would show that they support China's opening-up and hope China can keep pushing forward."
Newspaper headline: French PM’s visit to China shows close bilateral ties common interest