France and China

Bilateral relations

France’s recognition of the People’s Republic of China on 27 January 1964 marked the beginning of official relations. The French-Chinese relationship was raised to the level of “global strategic partnership” in 2004. Strategic dialogue (last session from 23 to 24 January 2019), which began in 2001, deals with all areas of cooperation and aims to strengthen dialogue global issues, such as reform of global economic governance, climate change and regional crises. High-level economic and financial dialogue (last session on 7 December 2018), which began in 2013, covers all economic issues. The high-level dialogue on human exchanges (last session on 26 November 2017) which began in 2014, involves academic, scientific and cultural exchanges, as well as the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality.

The President of the French Republic made his first state visit to China from 8 to 10 January 2018. This visit was an opportunity to set out the main themes of the French-Chinese partnership for the years ahead. The visits to China of the Prime Minister from 22 to 25 June 2018, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs on 13 and 14 September 2018 (25th Joint Commission on Trade and Investment), the Minister of Agriculture from 3 to 6 November 2018 (China International Import Expo in Shanghai) and the Minister of the Ecological Transition and Solidarity on 19 November 2018 (launch of the French-Chinese Year of the Environment) helped to make progress in these new directions.

Chinese President, Xi Jinping, made a state visit to France in March 2014 and an official visit in November 2015, at the time of the Paris Climate Conference. The Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang made an official visit to France in June and July 2015. The State Councillor and Foreign Minister, Mr Wang Yi, travelled to France on 16 May 2018, then on 23 and 24 January (15th session of the strategic dialogue).

Economically, rebalancing our trade “from the top” is a main priority, as was recalled during the presidential visit. China is France’s 7th largest customer (France has a 1.4% market share in China) and 2nd largest supplier (China has a 9% market share in France). Our trade is significantly imbalanced: China represents France’s largest bilateral trade deficit (€29.2 billion in 2018), ahead of Germany. Investment in both directions is booming. France has a long-standing presence in China (foreign direct investment stock of €25 billion in 2017) in all sectors, including agrifood, industry, transport, urban development, major retail and financial services. More than 1,100 French companies are present in China where they employ around 570,000 people. Chinese investment in France has grown significantly in recent years (€6 billion in FDI stock). A total of 700 subsidiaries of Chinese and Hong Kong companies are set up in France and employ 45,000 people. France supports Chinese investment which creates jobs and forges long-term, balanced partnerships. The economic partnership is reflected by the consolidation of structuring industrial cooperation in civil nuclear energy and aviation (Hinkley Point C, the EPR reactor in Taishan in reprocessing and recycling nuclear waste, assembly line of the A320 and completion of the A330 in Tianjin) and its expansion to new sectors (sustainable development, health, the economics of ageing, innovation and financial services).

Scientific and technological cooperation is focused on combatting emerging infectious diseases (creation of a Pasteur Institute in Shanghai and a P4 laboratory in Wuhan accredited in January 2017) and the space industry (CFOSat (Chinese-French Oceanic SATellite) and SVOM (Space Variable Objects Monitor) satellite projects). Over 3,000 researchers from the two countries and from 600 research units cooperate within some 60 joint public research structures. In the area of artistic and cultural exchanges, the “Croisements” festival has become the most prominent foreign festival in China. As regards academic cooperation, 37,000 Chinese students are benefitting from student mobility in France (the second-largest group of foreign students), while there are 10,000 French students studying in China (the largest group from Europe). Cooperation on the environment and sustainable development has three priorities: climate change, sustainable urban development, and water issues. The Agence Française de Développement has been working in China since 2004 (24 projects). Some 140 decentralized cooperation projects are currently being undertaken by 60 French local government bodies and 47 Chinese ones, through which concrete issues of mutual interest can be addressed.

France regularly voices its concerns about the human rights situation in China during high-level meetings. It has publicly expressed these concerns, including at the United Nations Human Rights Council, on the issues of the death penalty, freedoms of expression, religion and conscience, the situation in Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as individual cases. France is actively involved in EU-China dialogue on human rights, the last session of which took place in June 2018.

Updated: March 2019