China, France open doors to each other, share opportunities

Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant in Shenzhen City, south China’s Guangdong Province, August 6, 2017. /CFP

Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant in Shenzhen City, south China’s Guangdong Province, August 6, 2017. /CFP

With technical support from Électricité de France (EDF), the first large-scale nuclear power station in China went into operation in 1994 after nearly 10 years of construction.

Since the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant in Shenzhen City opened 30 years ago, EDF, France’s state-owned electricity company, has participated in various energy projects in China, including the Dongtai offshore wind power project in Jiangsu Province, which is the first Sino-foreign offshore wind farm in the country.

Fabrice Fourcade, president of the France-China Electricity Partnership Association, said the success of EDF’s four-decade cooperation with China lies primarily in mutual understanding. “This means understanding each other’s culture, work ethic, traditions and languages,” he wrote in an opinion piece for CGTN.

A similar trend of mutual understanding has allowed China and France to cooperate in fields ranging from technology and trade to cultural exchanges since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1964.

An assembly line for the Airbus A320 family of jets under construction in north China’s Tianjin Municipality, March 31, 2024. /CFP

An assembly line for the Airbus A320 family of jets under construction in north China’s Tianjin Municipality, March 31, 2024. /CFP

The trade volume between China and France reached $78.9 billion in 2023 and China’s import and export to France grew at an average annual rate of 5.9 percent from 2019 to 2023, according to data from the General Administration of Customs, which also showed in the first quarter of this year, China’s total trade with France was worth 127.22 billion yuan (around $17.6 billion).

The two countries have also increasingly invested in each other over recent years. China has been the largest Asian country in terms of investment and job creation in France for three consecutive years, Chinese Consul General in Marseille Dong Guangli told La Marseillaise, adding that China’s total direct investment in France stands at nearly $4.9 billion.

And a total of 6,687 French companies had been established in China by the end of 2021, with a total investment of over $19 billion, according to data from China’s Ministry of Commerce.

One of those companies, Airbus, agreed a deal in April 2023 with the Tianjin Free Trade Zone Investment Company and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China to build a second production line at Airbus Tianjin.

“We have been in China for nearly 30 years and China is an extremely important market for Airbus. In recent years, about 20 percent of our civilian aircraft have been delivered to Chinese customers, and this should continue in the coming years,” said Olivier Malet, CFO of Airbus China.

Malet added that Airbus will continue to invest in and cooperate with China, whose aviation industry is estimated to grow at 5 percent per year over the next 20 years. He also welcomed China’s measures to support foreign investment, which include expanding market access and streamlining rules, saying the measures helped facilitate Airbus’ investment in the country.

“Openness is the greatest opportunity, while seclusion is the greatest risk. China’s opening up will not stop,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi after talking with French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Stéphane Séjourné in April.

Noting China is now promoting new quality productive forces, high-quality development and high-level opening up, Wang told Séjourné that these priorities will create more opportunities for France and the rest of the world, and inject new vitality into China-France relations.

“We invite French companies to dive deep into the Chinese market and export more high-quality products, technologies, and services to both Chinese and global markets, enjoying the development opportunities of China and bringing new impetus to global development,” Lu Shaye, Chinese ambassador to France, wrote in an opinion piece for CGTN.

The Kribi Deep Seaport under construction in Cameroon, August 1, 2018. /CFP

The Kribi Deep Seaport under construction in Cameroon, August 1, 2018. /CFP

China and France have also cooperated in third countries, helping to boost the growth of industries, infrastructure and people’s livelihoods. The Kribi Deep Seaport in Cameroon, operated jointly by China and France, is a successful example.

Aided by Chinese and French companies’ expertise in port construction, operation and land and water logistics, the Kribi Deep Seaport is now the largest port in Cameroon.

The growth of the port, which is located on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, has not only boosted the economic development of Cameroon, but also benefited landlocked African countries such as the Central African Republic and Chad.

Looking ahead, many other areas await to be explored. In January, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that while deepening cooperation in traditional areas, China and France need to work together in emerging areas such as green industries and clean energy.

Facing the next 60 years, China and France will work together to create greater glories, Xi said in a video speech to a reception celebrating the 60th anniversary of China-France ties.