An inspiring visit to the foundation that witnesses China-France exchanges

The Charles de Gaulle Foundation in Paris, France Photo: He Zhuoqian/GT

The Charles de Gaulle Foundation in Paris, France Photo: He Zhuoqian/GT

Despite having only worked for the Charles de Gaulle Foundation for two years, Antoine Broussy, director of the foundation, can detail the circumstances through which Chinese President Xi Jinping came to the foundation 10 years ago during his official visit to France. 

“President Xi was welcomed to the foundation by Laurent Fabius, then minister of foreign affairs, and Jacques Godfrain, the foundation’s chairman at the time. To mark the solemnity of the occasion, the Republican Guard was present in front of the foundation. President Xi laid a wreath in honor of General de Gaulle in the office where he worked from 1947 to 1958. Gifts were exchanged,” Broussy recalled to the Global Times while showing a video capturing this moment.

Broussy displayed a guest book to the reporter, on which President Xi wrote “Paying Tribute to the Great Man and Composing a New Chapter in Chinese and French History,” during his visit to the foundation. 

This year, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France, President Xi pays a visit to France again, which Broussy said he is very much looking forward to.

The Charles de Gaulle Foundation in Paris, France Photo: He Zhuoqian/GT

The Charles de Gaulle Foundation in Paris, France Photo: He Zhuoqian/GT

Bold decision 

In 1964, then French president General de Gaulle made the bold decision to establish diplomatic ties with China, making France the first Western country to do so. General de Gaulle famously said, “China is a big country inhabited by many Chinese.” 

The spirit of de Gaulle, who demanded complete autonomy for France in world affairs, still inspires France today. 

Now a portrait of General de Gaulle painted by Chinese artist Fan Zeng hangs on the wall of the ­foundation. Broussy showed the office where de Gaulle used to work and ­receive guests with whom he would talk about literary and political matters. The room restores the scenarios when he worked there, a globe was placed on the upper left corner of his desk, and behind his chair was a map of France. The books de Gaulle used to read now silently line the bookshelf.

Broussy believes that the two pillars that drove de Gaulle’s decision still remain. 

“The establishment of diplomatic relations in 1964 was the result of a rational analysis of the geopolitical situation at the time, taking into account that China’s history, geography, civilization, demographic weight, and de facto existence made it impossible to ignore it as a country in its own rights. This decision was intended to level the prospects for trade and cultural exchanges, which Charles de Gaulle saw as the way to strengthen peaceful relations between nations by creating common interests,” Broussy told the Global Times. 

The Charles de Gaulle Foundation, previously Institut Charles-de-Gaulle, has operated since 1971 to publicize and perpetuate the action of General de Gaulle by offering educational activities, academic research, and policy thinking services. 

Over the years, the foundation has played a positive role in promoting cultural exchanges between China and France.

“The offspring of General Charles de Gaulle and the Foundation have continued the cause of General Charles de Gaulle and are working hard to promote China-France friendship,” President Xi said during his visit 10 years ago.

In January this year, representatives from the foundation took part in commemorative events held by the Chinese Embassy in France at de Gaulle’s former residence. Some ­Chinese students have taken internships in the foundation, and the foundation also opened the library to Chinese students and researchers, providing them with important first-hand information for understanding and writing papers about General de Gaulle. 

The foundation also conducts exchanges with Chinese think tanks and institutions. 

Broussy said that the foundation sometimes hosts young people to inform them about the deeds of de Gaulle and to pass on the spirit of de Gaulle. 

A scene inside the Charles de Gaulle Foundation in Paris, France Photo: He Zhuoqian/GT

A scene inside the Charles de Gaulle Foundation in Paris, France Photo: He Zhuoqian/GT

‘A direct dialogue’

Frédéric Fogacci, Broussy’s ­colleague and head of research and scientific studies at the Charles de Gaulle Foundation, told the Global Times that it is important that China and France maintain their stable and friendly relations in current times.

“Both China and France are involved in the global dialogue. Nothing can be done without one of them. So, they have to talk and solve some problems. The dialogue between the top leaders between China and France is somehow a direct dialogue, which is also important for the China-Europe relation,” said Fogacci.

In a showroom on the ground floor of the Charles de Gaulle Foundation, a bronze half-body statue of de Gaulle stands. He looks contemplative, apparently observing the historical trajectory of China-France relations.

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