Strategic significance of China-France relations is becoming increasingly prominent: Global Times editorial

60 years of friendship.Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived Sunday in Paris for a state visit to France as the first stop of his European trip. He received a grand welcome from the French side. At the same time, President Xi’s written speech upon arrival at Paris Orly airport, the signed article published in French media Le Figaro, and the China-France-EU trilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have continued to spark heated discussions in Western public opinion, highlighting the significance of this visit at the bilateral, European and global levels.

President Xi said in his signed article that during his visit to France, he brought with him three messages from China: China will work with France to carry forward the spirit that guided the establishment of their diplomatic ties, build on past achievements and open new vistas for China-France relations; China will open even wider to the world and deepen cooperation with France and other countries; China will strengthen communication and coordination with France to uphold world peace and stability. These three messages not only demonstrate China’s concept of development, security, and civilization in the new era, but also reflect the strategic, epoch-making and global nature of China-France relations in the context of a changing world order.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France. Sixty years ago, the two countries broke through the icy barriers of the Cold War, bridged the gap between camps, and established ambassadorial-level diplomatic relations, “ripping a slit in an iron plate,” pushing the world toward dialogue and cooperation. Even today, admiration for the strategic vision and broad-mindedness of that generation of leaders remains a common sentiment from top to bottom in both China and France, demonstrating that the strategic direction of the relationship established at that time was correct and stood the test of time. President Xi’s emphasis of carrying forward the spirit that guided the establishment of diplomatic ties, namely the spirit of independence, mutual understanding, foresight, mutual benefit and win-win outcomes, shows that in the face of profound global transformations and uncertainties, it is hoped that the two countries can lead the world back to the right path of cooperation rather than confrontation, to win-win results rather than zero-sum.

We have noticed that from the conflict between Russia and Ukraine to trade disputes, some Western public opinions have previously listed a “to-do list” between China and France. China and France never avoided these issues. Over the past 60 years, the reason why China-France relations have consistently remained at the forefront of China’s relations with Western countries, pioneering many “firsts,” is not because they have not experienced ups and downs, but because they have always focused on the fundamental and long-term interests of both countries and peoples, jointly safeguarded world peace and stability, and promoted human development and progress.

Charles de Gaulle once said at a press conference after the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France, “France simply recognizes the world as it is.” He firmly believed in the long history of Chinese civilization and emphasized that global development cannot be without China. Today, as China deeply integrates into globalization, just as de Gaulle foresaw, it has a strong willingness and continues to contribute to global development. China’s expansion of high-level openness and deepening cooperation with other countries, including France, is not a forced choice, but a conclusion drawn from our own development experience and a natural result of our development needs. China offers opportunities rather than risks, and seeks cooperation rather than confrontation. As long as one can correctly grasp the main thread of comprehensively understanding China’s development, all problems will be technical and temporary.

France is an influential major power in the Western world, and its influence stems not only from its hard power but also from its longstanding tradition of independence and its unique perspective and vision. The stability and development of China-France relations will become a very prominent case in China’s relations with the West, helping other Western countries to understand China’s foreign policy and the principles China upholds when developing relations with countries of different systems and cultural backgrounds. The stability of China-France relations provides more impetus for China-Europe relations and also helps European countries to understand China in a rational, pragmatic, and objective manner and handle their relations with China accordingly.

France was the first Western power to establish diplomatic relations with China, and China-France relations have always carried the genes of influencing international relations and the world order from the very beginning. Just as President Xi said, “both China and France value independence as two major countries, and our interactions in the long course of history have released tremendous energy swaying the trajectory of the world.” Under the strategic guidance of the two leaders, we look forward to China and France embarking on a new journey for the next 60 years of bilateral relations, constantly making new achievements for global peace and stability as well as human development.

Second-tier artistic swimming squad grabs 6 golds at World Cup

Photo: Courtesy of organizers

Photo: Courtesy of organizers

Team China totaled six gold and three silver medals at the Beijing stop of the World Aquatics artistic swimming World Cup, with the young Chinese athletes setting their sights on a major international stage.

Although Team China did not win any gold medals in three events on Sunday, two silver medals are enough to keep the team at the top of the medal table in a competition that attracted nearly 100 elite artistic swimmers from 14 countries and regions.

Among the 11 medal events at stake, host China competed in all the events, but the top-level swimmers of the national team only participated in the Team Free event, while the second-tier national team members competed across the rest of the 10 events.

Sisters Wang Liuyi and Wang Qianyi, reigning world champions, are the new faces in China’s Team Free squad. Guo Muye, aged 15, is the youngest athlete in the squad but contributed one gold medal in the mixed duet technical with 15-year-old partner Ji Heyue and one silver medal in men’s solo technical. 

“For the first-team athletes, it is important to build upon the foundation of the worlds and make adjustments based on the revised rules, including artistic impressions and difficulty of execution,” China’s head coach Zhang Xiaohuan told reporters. 

“We are also looking forward to receiving valuable feedback from the judges in this competition. We hope to receive better recognition in terms of artistic impressions.”

Team China achieved its best-ever performance at the worlds this year, winning seven golds, one silver, and one bronze medals across 11 events at the world championships in Doha in February.

As the Olympics approach this year, international events are considered one of the best ways to evaluate athletes’ training results. Zhang remains cautious about China’s prospect at the Paris Olympics. 

“Some moves that were possible in Doha will not be seen again,” Zhang told reporters, referring to the rule modifications in the sport. “This change presents a challenge for the team.”

She noted, however, that Chinese athletes are far from getting complacent in the sport. 

“Our team currently has a strong sense of crisis and we need to set higher standards for ourselves,” Zhang noted. 

“Our main focus at this stage is to improve the quality of our routines under the revised new rules and to prevent injuries and illnesses for the athletes.”

Swimmer Wu Jingyan is among the second-tier squad members who debuted at the World Cup. She told the Global Times that having the opportunity to compete in international competitions motivates her to put even more effort into training. 

“It is a great honor to represent China in such an international competition,” the 24-year-old said after Sunday’s Team Acrobatic race. “Participation in the events helped us identify where there is room for improvement, and I think it will boost the whole team to train ­harder.”

The Water Cube, the venue for swimming events of the 2008 Summer Olympics and redesigned for curling events for the 2022 Winter Olympics, is one of the prominent aquatics venues in China. 

The World Aquatics Artistic Swimming World Cup 2024 series has four legs this season. After the Beijing event, the series will travel to Paris in France from May 3 to 5, then Markham, Canada, from May 31 to June 2, followed by a Super Final in Budapest, Hungary, from July 5 to 7.

Team China is expected to send their first-team squad to the Paris leg of the event, as the venue of the World Cup event, which was unveiled earlier this week, will also be the venue for the Paris Olympics. 

Beijing has previously hosted 35 World Aquatics events, including two editions each of the artistic swimming World Cup events in 2018 and 2019. The city will host the World Aquatics Championships in 2029.