Political relations

France’s recognition of the People’s Republic of China on 27 January 1964 marked the beginning of official relations. The French-Chinese Partnership, which was elevated to the level of “comprehensive strategic partnership” in 2004, is based on the belief that a dialogue of confidence with China will further the country’s shift towards a more sustainable development model founded on the rule of law and that will help to foster peace and prosperity at international level.

A cooperation plan adopted on the occasion of the Chinese President’s visit to France in March 2014 set the major operational guidelines for the French-Chinese partnership. The French-Chinese relationship is developing in three priority areas: strengthen political dialogue, work to rebalance economic relations in a spirit of reciprocity and encourage greater exchanges between civil societies, in particular between young people from the two countries. Our coordination enables our two countries to make use of their points of convergence and deepen discussions of points on which we diverge.

France’s partnership with China is structured by a number of forums for dialogue. The strategic dialogue, the latest session of which took place in Paris in March 2016, was established in 2001 and helps tackle the various fields of cooperation and strengthen coordination on global issues such as the climate.

The high-level economic and financial dialogue was created in 2013 and covers all economic subjects. Its last session was held in Paris in November 2016, during the visit of Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai. The high-level dialogue on human exchanges was created in 2014 and concerns academic, scientific and cultural cooperation. It was last held in Paris in June 2016.


The partnership between France and China is fuelled by an intense series of high-level visits. The Heads of State meet on a regular basis, during State visits, official visits or on the sidelines of major summits.

On the French side, President François Hollande made two State visits to China, in April 2013 and November 2015, in addition to taking part in the Hangzhou G20 Summit in September 2016, on the sidelines of which he met with President Xi Jinping. The French Prime Minister, Mr Bernard Cazeneuve, visited Beijing from 21 to 23 February 2017, as well as Wuhan where he visited the Franco-Chinese ecocité project and the French-designed P4 laboratory. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, made three visits to China, the last of which on 13 and 14 April 2017.

On the Chinese side, the 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 visited France from 29 June to 2 July 2015. The Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, Mr Zhang Dejiang, visited France from 24 to 27 September 2016, for the interparliamentary France-China Grand Commission. The 24ᵗʰ France-China Joint Economic and Trade Committee session, co-chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Mr Ayrault, and the Minister of the Economy and Finance, Mr Sapin, on the French side, and by the Minister of Commerce, Mr Gao Hucheng, on the Chinese side, took place in Paris on 3 October 2016.

For more information, visit the website of the French Embassy in China:

Economic relations

China is France’s eighth-largest customer, with a market share in China of 1.6% in 2016 (€16 billion) compared with around 5.5% for Germany, 1.2% for the United Kingdom and 1% for Italy (Chinese data). China is also our second largest supplier (ahead of the United States and the United Kingdom) and has an 9% market share in France (€46 billion). Our imports from China consist primarily of computer, electronic and optical goods (30%) and textile and leather goods (23%). Following a sharp increase in 2015 (up 9.3% to €64.5 billion), economic and commercial exchanges dropped by 4.2% in 2016 and remain highly unbalanced: China accounts for our largest bilateral trade deficit, ahead of Germany (€30.4 billion in 2016).

Cross-investment is taking off. France has a long-standing presence in China (foreign direct investment stock of €33 billion in 2015) in all sectors, including agrifood, industry, transport, urban development, major retail and financial services. More than 1,100 French companies are present in China in 4,200 locations. Chinese investment in France has seen strong growth in recent years, with foreign direct investment (FDI) stock now standing at around €5 billion). France supports Chinese investment that creates jobs and respects business projects. 700 subsidiaries of Chinese and Hong Kong companies are established in France and employ more than 45,000 people.

The economic partnership between France and China helps to develop cross-investments and deepen structuring industrial cooperation, particularly in the aviation and civil nuclear energy sectors. This cooperation was conducted based on the principles of reciprocity and mutual benefit. The French-Chinese relationship is developing also in other promising areas like the environment and sustainable development, agrifood, health and financial services. Our economic and commercial presence in China is supported by around 1,600 French businesses. In order to rebalance our bilateral economic and trade relations, France expects greater reciprocity from China, particularly as regards market access and intellectual property protection.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Scientific and technological cooperation focuses on several priority areas determined with China, including sustainable development, biodiversity and water management, and energy. The fight against emerging infectious diseases is a major aspect of French-Chinese cooperation (2004 cooperation agreement), in the framework of which a Pasteur Institute was created in Shanghai and a P4 laboratory in Wuhan (accredited in January 2017). Over 3,000 researchers from the two countries and from 600 research units cooperate within some 60 French-Chinese public research structures.

In the field of artistic and cultural exchanges, the organization of major multidisciplinary, high-profile annual cultural events helps to deepen mutual understanding and provide a renewed image of France. The “Croisements” artistic festival has become the largest foreign festival in China. The 11ᵗʰ edition in 2016 involved some 50 events in 30 major Chinese cities, and reached 24 million spectators.

As regards academic cooperation, the number of Chinese students in France has increased ten-fold in the last decade: in 2015-2016, 28,043 Chinese students were enrolled in French higher education institutions, making them the second-largest contingent of foreign students in France. France sends the largest contingent of European students to China, and the tenth-largest group globally, with over 10,000 French students in China in 2015. Linguistic cooperation is seeing growing numbers of pupils studying French and Chinese. In 2015, some 50,000 French pupils were studying Mandarin Chinese, making it the fifth most-taught language. Strong growth is also being seen in the number of French-learners in China.

Cooperation on the environment and sustainable development is based on three priorities: climate change, sustainable urban development, and water issues. The Agence Française de Développement (AFD, French Development Agency) has been active in China since 2004, focused on accompanying China’s transition to a low-carbon and environmentally friendly economy and promoting the expertise of French actors. Since 2004, 24 projects have been implemented for a gross amount of cumulative commitments of nearly €1.2 billion (sovereign loans on market terms since 2011). New projects are currently being implemented in the Guangxi, Heilongjiang and Fujian provinces. In 2016, four projects were approved by AFD bodies, representing a total of €150 million.

Since the first Meeting on French-Chinese Decentralized Cooperation in 2005, France and China have opted to deepen the ties forged between their local governments, notably as regards the introduction of clean and sustainable urban policies suited to new lifestyles. 59 French local governments are operating in China, covering 147 projects implemented with 64 partner Chinese local governments in key regional development sectors, including culture, universities, research and the economy. 16 French local governments have opened a representation in China.

Updated: 17 July 2017