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CHINA

France and China sign off €18 billion worth of deals

France and China signed €18 billion worth of deals on Wednesday including an order for 70 Airbus planes from Beijing. French President François Hollande said the deals mean "jobs, growth and prospects" for France on a day when the jobless rate reached a new record high.

France and China sign off €18 billion worth of deals
Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) and his wife Peng Liyuan (L) greet French President Francois Hollande (R) before a state dinner at the Elysee presidential palace. Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP
Beijing and Paris signed scores of deals on Wednesday worth €18 billion ($25 billion) on the second day of a lavish state visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, in what President Francois Hollande said would bring much-needed growth.
 
Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan have been given VIP treatment on a nostalgia-tinted trip to France marking the 50th year of full diplomatic ties between the two countries – a visit due to culminate with a concert at the Versailles chateau on Thursday.
 
The power couple kicked off their trip in the eastern city of Lyon on Tuesday, and a day later travelled up to Paris where Xi met with his counterpart Hollande and signed the deals.
 
"Eighteen billion euros of contracts – that is jobs, growth and, most of all, significant prospects for the coming years," Hollande said during a joint press declaration with the Chinese president.

50 agreements signed

By far the biggest deal was a Chinese order for 70 Airbus planes worth more than $10 billion.

 
The order covers the purchase of 43 mid-range A320 planes and 27 long-haul A330s, the European aviation giant said.
 
China had already announced its intention to purchase the planes but subsequently froze the order due to a row over EU plans to impose a carbon emissions levy on airlines.
 
This forced Airbus to take the 70 planes off its order book, so Wednesday's contract is considered a new purchase.
 
Airbus Helicopters and China's Avicopter also announced a deal to jointly produce 1,000 civilian helicopters over 20 years.
 
Altogether, the two countries signed 50 agreements in areas as varied as the nuclear, financial and automotive sectors.
 
France lags behind some European neighbours, especially Germany, in trade and investment links with fast-growing China.
 
Last year, France had a trade deficit with China worth 25.8 billion euros, and on Wednesday, Hollande told Xi that Paris had a "duty… to re-balance trade between our two countries".
 
His comments came as the number of jobless in France surged by 0.9 percent in February to a new record of 3.34 million, in what is likely to increase the deep unpopularity of Hollande's government.
Ukraine topic of talks 

On the diplomatic front, Hollande said he "appreciated" China's stance on Ukraine, after Beijing lodged a rare abstention on a UN Security Council resolution condemning a Moscow-backed secession referendum in Crimea, rather than vetoing it along with ally Russia.

 
"We do not want the 21st century to be the century of annexations and separatism," he said.
 
The French president also called on China to host the G20.
 
The Chinese leader is on his first-ever European tour and after visiting the Netherlands and France will head to Germany and Belgium.
 
Xi and his wife Peng chose to begin the French leg of their trip in Lyon, a former silk centre that forged enduring links with China from the 16th century.
 
The couple were treated to a lavish dinner at the city hall, and sampled regional wine and food such as Beaufort cheese.
 
On Wednesday, the couple visited bioMerieux, a French diagnostics firm run by a prominent Lyon business dynasty that has old trade links with China.
 
"In the near future, the Chinese health sector will greatly develop and this will be in the interest of the Chinese people and the whole world," Xi said.
 
He then visited the city's Franco-Chinese Institute before leaving for Paris to meet the French president.
 
Xi is scheduled to make a major speech in Paris Thursday highlighting historical bonds such as the experiences of Communist Party luminaries Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, who both studied in France.
 
His wife Peng, China's first prominent First Lady and a famous singer, is also a Francophile.
 
And while she no longer has a French counterpart after Hollande split from his partner Valerie Trierweiler, Peng has her own activities planned that will see her named special Unesco envoy for the promotion of women's education.
 
The question of human rights in China was ever-present on the visit amid an ongoing, government-backed crackdown on dissent, with Tibetan exiles planning a big rally in Paris on Thursday.
 
Since 2009 about 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in China in protests against the authorities, denouncing what they say is an erosion of their religious freedoms and culture and discrimination by the country's Han majority.

Hollande touched on human rights in his toast at a dinner in Xi's honour on Wednesday evening.

"We are committed to creation, expression, emancipation through the free movement of people and ideas, which is the basis of the human rights to which France is attached," he said

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CHINA

Xi arrives on French Riviera as Macron seeks united EU front on China

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Monaco on the French Riviera Sunday seeking to press ambitious commercial goals ahead of talks with France's Emmanuel Macron who is trying to forge a united European front to contend with Beijing's advances.

Xi arrives on French Riviera as Macron seeks united EU front on China
Chinese President Xi Jinping, his wife Peng Liyuan, Princess Charlene of Monaco and Prince Albert II of Monaco, stand in front of troops at the Monaco Palace. Photo: AFP

Xi arrived at the airport of the resort city of Nice accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan to be welcomed by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and an guard of honour.

Prior to meeting with Macron, Xi went to the nearby principality of Monaco, where he was received by Prince Albert II and where a government spokesman said bilateral talks would “address economic and environmental issues”.

Xi, who has made establishing China as a global player central to his government, travelled from Italy, whose government became the first G7 state to sign up to his landmark new “Silk Road” infrastructure project, a massive undertaking to join Asia to Europe.

Washington and some EU states fear the huge project will give China too much sway. But Xi says it would be a two-way street of investment and trade.

Germany criticised Rome over its participation in the new Silk Road project.

“In a world with giants like China, Russia or our partners in the United States, we can only survive if we are united as the EU. And if some countries believe that they can do clever business with the Chinese, then they will be surprised when they wake up and find themselves dependant,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

The EU's German budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger, told the Funke newspaper group that Europe should ensure it retains its autonomy and sovereignty when dealing with China.

He expressed concern that already “infrastructure of strategic importance … are no longer in European but in Chinese hands.”

French Finance Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had remarked Friday that “Silk
Road cooperation had to go “in both directions.”

Amid tight security, Xi and his wife were Sunday evening to join Macron and his wife for a private dinner at nearby Beaulieu-sur-Mer overlooking the Mediterranean during which they would have what a Chinese official termed “a deep exchange of views on Sino-French, Sino-European relations and international and issues of mutual interest.”

Xi's official visit to Paris on Monday will mark 55 years since Charles de Gaulle established diplomatic relations with Beijing.

A series of cooperation deals on nuclear power, aerospace and clean energy initiatives, some involving lucrative contracts, are expected to be signed.

On Tuesday, Macron and Xi will be joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to explore “points of convergence” ahead of an EU-China summit in Brussels next month.

As well as addressing commercial cooperation and strategic issues with Xi, Macron has also been urged to deal with the case of Chinese former Interpol head Meng Hongwei.

Meng's wife has had no news of her husband since his arrest in China nearly six months ago and it emerged Sunday she has written to Marcon asking him to bring up his disappearance with Xi.

He is believed to be facing corruption charges.

But Xi's visit poses a particular challenge for Macron, who wants to deepen EU ties with China while also pushing back against Beijing's growing global clout.

Europe's distrust of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which is poised to become the dominant player in next-generation 5G mobile technology worldwide, is emblematic of the increasingly rocky relationship.

Monaco, which notably is eyeing a share of Chinese luxury tourism and has its own foreign policy, only last year signed an accord with Huawei to make the principality the first country entirely covered by the company's 5G mobile network by year end.

Macron has lauded the EU's “awakening” to the challenges posed by China, which the bloc now labels a “rival” despite being Europe's biggest trading partner.

“The reality is that the world has changed significantly — China is not the country it once was, and we are dealing with a very major partner,” a Macron aide said ahead of Xi's visit.

The US is pressuring European allies to not use the Huawei technology, saying it creates a security risk by potentially letting Beijing snoop on sensitive communications.

But France has not ruled out using Huawei gear.

Beijing has accused Washington of trying to escalate President Donald Trump's trade battle with China.

Despite the many sources of friction, France wants to engage China as a closer partner as Washington makes a pointed withdrawal from global affairs under Trump's “America First” policy.

For example, Macron may seek more Chinese support of the French-backed G5 Sahel force fighting Islamist extremists in Western Africa.

China has been investing heavily in a diplomatic offensive across Africa, promising to help build infrastructure projects as part of the new Silk Road initiative.

Aides say Macron will press Xi to ensure such projects are fair and explore the participation of French companies amid allegations the deals could load African countries with unsustainable debt. 

READ ALSO: 'This will only help China': France furious after EU derails train-merger

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