“France has indisputably close contact with China thanks to Jacques Chirac’s China policy of 12 years,” The China Daily, October 25, 2006.
Only few people know that the great French statesman Jacques Chirac is a very good connoisseur of the Chinese culture and history (he speaks Chinese fluently and has a private collection of Chinese art).
On January 27, 1964, China and France issued a joint communiqué, announcing the forging of diplomatic ties with ambassadors to be appointed within three months. France thus became the first major Western country to forge formal diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Culture and history have always held a very important position in exchanges between the people of the two nations, both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
Mr Li Zhaoxing, Chinese foreign minister, welcomes Mr Jacques Chirac (Beijing, October 2006) photo © F. de La Mure/MAE.
INTERVIEW GIVEN BY M. JACQUES CHIRAC, PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC, TO CHINA CENTRAL TELEVISION (CCTV)
Beijing, 25 October 2006
Q. – Mr President, you are known for your interest in the history of civilizations, and in particular Eastern civilizations. What advice would you give as regards the exploration and preservation of China’s cultural heritage, and what have been the experiences of France in this area?
THE PRESIDENT – China has a very long history and is a very ancient civilization, and consequently has quite exceptional traces of both. This is what makes everything about China’s culture so fascinating, from the earliest writings to the modern day.
I am in no doubt that there is nothing that I can teach the Chinese, who have excellent archaeologists and great scholars and who have no need of advice. If you asked me for a simple assessment, I would say that it is in China’s interest to develop the legal framework of its system in a way which, obviously, provides very effective protection for everything of importance, but which also allows certain exports which otherwise, unfortunately, take place in an irregular way, which is not a very good thing. It is therefore necessary to control these illegal exports of Chinese artefacts from China.
And then there are all the questions relating to excavations. I believe that China is wise not to want to do too much too quickly, particularly as regards royal and imperial tombs. There is a benefit to be gained from waiting a while so as to have the necessary resources to be able to carry out these major excavations, which will have a great impact on world culture, under optimal technical conditions and with sufficient resources. I am thinking particularly of the tomb of the first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, which it had been imagined could be opened, but which it was wisely decided not to open, but rather to wait for a more suitable occasion. I believe that this was a wise decision, especially in respect of a site destined to become the eighth wonder of the world.
Q. – This is your fourth visit as President of France; what is the purpose of this particular visit?
THE PRESIDENT – First, there is the political aspect: China is playing an increasingly important role in the world. This can particularly be seen in its participation in UN peacekeeping operations, for example recently in Lebanon.
Secondly, China’s economic development is quite extraordinary and has resulted in the Chinese economy having a more and more important place in the world. Consequently, it is entirely right that there should be the strongest possible relations of a political, economic and cultural nature between Europe and China, and, in particular, between France and China. This is my ambition in my dealings with China.
Q. – France and China are two countries which play a very important role in international affairs. What are the new challenges of an international and strategic nature that the two countries currently face? How can the two countries strengthen their dialogue?
THE PRESIDENT – France and China are both countries which desire peace and stability in the world, for many reasons. We therefore have the same objective. In this respect, it can be seen that China is becoming more and more sensitive to international problems. This has been seen in its role in relation to the North Korean, Iranian and Lebanese questions, and again in its increasing and desirable presence in Africa, with the forthcoming China-Africa summit. Throughout the world, China is making its presence felt with objectives that are shared by France, that is to say the objectives of peace and stability in the world.
Q. – China is very appreciative of your support for the policy of “one country, two systems”. Recently, the leader of Taiwan, Mr Chen Shui-bian, again expressed his determination to secure the island’s independence. What are your feelings on this subject?
THE PRESIDENT – As you know, we stated France’s position on this subject a very long time ago, and it has not changed: for historical, geographical, economic and political reasons, we are in favour of the unity of China and we will not change our minds on this.
Q. – In recent years, commercial trade between China and France, and between China and the European Union, has sometimes given rise to tensions. We have particularly in mind the very high import duties placed on shoes by Brussels in order to maintain the balance of the markets, and there are of course other examples. How can the Chinese economy be harmonized with the European economy, and, in your view, when will the European Union recognize China’s status as a market economy?
THE PRESIDENT – We are in favour of the European Union recognizing China’s status as a market economy, and France has said so very clearly.
By the same token, we are also in favour of the removal of this anachronistic embargo.
Thereafter, economic relations between Europe and China do pose competition problems. Competition must be as fair as possible and, in this respect, China gave commitments when it joined the WTO – commitments with which it is complying. We have one problem, in particular, with China – and incidentally with other countries as well, particularly Asian countries – which is counterfeiting. This poses a real difficulty which is both political and economic. I know that the Chinese authorities are alive to this and are trying to combat the development of such counterfeiting, and I hope they succeed in doing so.
EU ARMS EMBARGO
Q. – Is France still in favour of lifting the European Union embargo on arms sales to China?
THE PRESIDENT – As I have told you, I am in favour of that. We are putting the case to the European Union for the lifting of the embargo, because I think that the embargo is an anachronism which is no longer relevant.
FUTURE OF EU/CHINA
Q. – In 2007, the European Union will have 27 member States. How do you see the future of the European Union and its relationship with China?
THE PRESIDENT – The European Union is founded on the same principles that I mentioned earlier with regard to China, that is to say the establishment of lasting peace, stability and democracy in the world. Against this background, my hope is that the European Union and China will develop stable relationships in all areas, and particularly of a cultural, economic and political nature, and this is a process that is already very largely under way.
Q. – What will be the role of the European Union in the world, and what will be that of France in an enlarged European Union?
THE PRESIDENT – The central mission of the European Union is to strengthen peace, stability and democracy throughout the world. Europe has fought many wars in its history, and now wants to banish war altogether. This is also China’s objective. Consequently, we have common objectives. Clearly, when it comes to the practicalities of implementing democracy, we have problems which, quite naturally, we raise. But I would mention that China’s decision to recognize the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is an important step in the right direction, and one which I welcome.
Q. – Mr President, thank you very much for giving this interview. Do you have a final message for the Chinese people?
THE PRESIDENT – It is a message first and foremost of esteem for a great people, for a country which, undoubtedly, will be one of the most important, and possibly the most important, in tomorrow’s world. A people deeply rooted in a very ancient culture – we have talked about that – and in a whole set of traditional and historic values that give it strength and dynamism, and a country which, like all countries, has experienced difficulties in adapting to the modern world, but which I believe is in the best possible position to face those difficulties, particularly in light of the stated ambition of the 11th Plan, on the one hand, and of the statements of President Hu Jintao in relation to harmonious development, on the other.
Q. – I wish you a most successful visit and a pleasant trip.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you.