Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault was in China (Chengdu, Beijing and Shanghai) from October 29 to November 1.
In Chengdu, the Minister spoke at the Fifth Congress on Decentralized Cooperation, where several French local authorities were represented.
A number of projects have been developed since the first French-Chinese sister-cities agreement was reached between Montpellier and Chengdu in 1981, and today there are 55 such partnerships, involving school construction, projects for cleaning up industrial waste, the design of public gardens, medical cooperation, and sustainable urban development. The cities of Bordeaux, Lamballe, Montpellier, Moret-sur-Loing, Paris, Saint-Denis de la Réunion, Tours, the Seine et Marne Department, and the Centre Val de Loire region all received awards at this Fifth French-Chinese Conference. The Minister also had a long meeting with the major leaders of Sichuan Province to promote French cooperation with that region of 80 million inhabitants.
In Beijing, the Minister met with top Chinese officials: President Xi Jinping, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Vice Premier Liu Yandong. The meeting with the Chinese President emphasized the high caliber of bilateral relations. Discussions covered all subjects of mutual interest relating to the French-Chinese bilateral relationship and cooperation on the international scene.
In both Beijing and Shanghai, Mr. Ayrault also met with a number of economic figures: young entrepreneurs from the French Tech Hubs in Beijing and Shanghai, investors from major Chinese consortia, travel writers, members of the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China, and Foreign Trade Advisors. These conversations allowed the Minister to underscore the following messages:
- France and China want to continue expanding their economic ties. Beyond the efforts that remain necessary for French goods and services to secure better access to the Chinese market, Mr. Ayrault’s message on investments is clear: Chinese investments are welcome in France; a dialogue takes place when investment projects are strategic in nature; we must support start-ups, SMEs and large French groups seeking to become established in China, stressing the principle of reciprocity. French companies have now created nearly 600,000 jobs in China, corresponding to overall revenues of €80 billion.
- Chinese tourists are welcome in France, where they are very well received. In 2015, France welcomed 2.2 million Chinese tourists. That number will probably be smaller in 2016. With improved security conditions, campaigns promoting France as a destination, and more diversified travel opportunities nationwide, France hopes to welcome five million Chinese visitors annually by 2020. Mr. Ayrault delivered this confident, ambitious message to Chinese travel professionals, and it will be passed on via stepped-up promotional efforts and opportunities in the coming months.