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 on 19 December 2017), which began in 2001, deals with all areas of cooperation and aims to strengthen dialogue on world issues, such as fighting climate change and terrorism, as well as addressing regional crises. High-level economic and financial dialogue (last session on 1 December 2017), 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 promoting women’s rights and gender equality.

President Hollande 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. At Ministerial level, Ms Laura Flessel, Minister of Sport, Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, et Mr Bruno Le Maire, Minister for the Economy and Finance, travelled to China respectively on 26-27 October, 24-26 November and 30 November to 2 December 2017.

Chinese President, Xi Jinping, made a State visit to France in March 2014 and an official visit in November 2015, on the margins of the Paris Climate Conference. The Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang made an official visit to France in June and July 2015. In 2017, the Chinese Minister of Education Chen Baosheng travelled to Paris on 1 November, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Zhang Yesui on 4 December and the Vice Premier Ma Kai on 12 December, for the One Planet Summit. The State Councilor and Foreign Minister, Mr Wang Yi, travelled to France on 16 May 2018.

Economically, rebalancing our trade “from the top” is a main priority, as was recalled during the Presidential visit. China is France’s 6th largest trading partner, its 8th largest customer (France has a 1.6% market share in China) and 2nd largest supplier (China has a 9% market share in France). Our trade remains characterized by strong imbalance: China represents France’s largest bilateral trade deficit (€30.2 billion in 2017), ahead of Germany. Cross-investment is booming. France has a long-standing presence in China (foreign direct investment stock of €33 billion) 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 seen strong growth in recent years (€6 billion in FDI stock). 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 aeronautics (Hinkley Point C, the EPR reactor in Taishan which will come on line in 2018, cooperation in reprocessing and recycling nuclear waste; assembly line of the A320 and completion of the A330 in Tianjin and its expansion to new sectors (including sustainable development, health, the economics of ageing, innovation and financial services). In the agrifood sector, the two parties agreed, during the Presidential visit, to encourage discussions on beef exports within six months as a priority.

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 largest foreign festival in China. As regards academic cooperation, 37,000 Chinese students are benefitting from student mobility in France (the 2nd 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 AFD has been working in China since 2004 (24 projects). 133 decentralized cooperation projects are currently being undertaken by 57 French local government bodies and 45 Chinese ones, enabling concrete issues of mutual interest to 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 2017.

Updated: 14 June 2018