- "However, M. Chirac's mostly uncritical welcome
for the new Chinese president also fits with his often declared opinion
that the 21st century should be a "multi-polar world" in which
France - and Europe - should not be subservient to a "unipolar"
American world view."
- France Sidesteps Human Rights Concerns And Forges Strategic
Alliance With China
- PARIS -- France and China
laid the foundations for a new economic and diplomatic alliance yesterday,
with President Jacques Chirac taking Beijing's side against Taiwan and
calling for an end to the European embargo on Chinese arms sales.
- The new Chinese president, Hu Jintao, on a state visit
to France, became the first Communist head of state to address the French
national assembly. He announced that China would buy 21 A-320 airbuses
from the French-led European airbus consortium.
- The elaborate state visit for Mr Hu - and a joint press
conference by the presidents at the ElysÈe palace yesterday - has
raised suspicions in Washington that M. Chirac wishes to build a new alliance
with China in an attempt to counter US influence in the world.
- The warmth of the welcome given to Mr Hu, and the invitation
to address the national assembly, have also disturbed some French politicians
of both right and left. Two dozen deputies boycotted Mr Hu's speech last
night on the grounds that only democratic politicians should address parliament.
- Several of them joined in a demonstration outside the
national assembly for human rights and independence for Tibet.
- French officials and other members of parliament conceded
that Mr Hu's visit - marking "the year of China" in France, which
began with an immense Chinese new year parade on the Champs ElysÈe
on Saturday - was part of an attempt to forge a stronger Paris-Beijing
- They said that the main focus was not political but commercial
and economic. A number of other lucrative contracts will shortly be announced
by Beijing, including the creation of a high-speed railway line between
Beijing and Shanghai and four nuclear power stations. France has considerable
technological prowess in both fields.
- However, M. Chirac's mostly uncritical welcome for the
new Chinese president also fits with his often declared opinion that the
21st century should be a "multi-polar world" in which France
- and Europe - should not be subservient to a "unipolar" American
- China, as a permanent member of the UN security council,
holds one of the keys to France's hopes - despite the destructive confrontations
over the Iraqi war - of restoring the influence of the United Nations.
- At the press conference yesterday, M. Chirac gave a diplomatic
gift to Mr Hu by criticising plans by the Taiwanese government to hold
a referendum on increasing the island's defences against a possible invasion
from the Chinese mainland.
- "All initiatives that can be interpreted as aggressive
by one side or the other are dangerous for everyone and thus irresponsible,"
M. Chirac said. Washington has also criticised the referendum idea.
- France pushed in Brussels on Monday for the lifting of
the arms embargo imposed on China by the EU after the savage repression
of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstration in Beijing in 1989.
Other governments, including Britain and Germany, resisted any change but
the issue will be considered again in April.
- France argues that economic and commercial relations
between the West and China are now so healthy - and diplomatic relations
so cordial - that the ban on arms sales is obsolete. "This embargo
no longer makes any sense," M. Chirac said at his joint press conference
with Mr Hu yesterday. "It will, I hope, be lifted in the months to
- In return, President Hu gave very little. President Chirac
said that he had pressed his guest on the question of human rights in China.
- The Chinese President said yesterday that the "door
of the central Chinese government was always open" to the Tibetan
spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama - but only if he gave up the idea of independence
for Tibet, annexed by China in 1951.
- "Our differences... are not over questions of democracy,
religion or human rights, but rather over the issue of whether one recognises
that Tibet is an inseparable part of China," President Hu said.
- © 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd