By Ai Weining Source: Global Times Published: 2017-5-17
Earlier this month, the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron won a runoff in the second round over far-right politician Marine Le Pen, making the 39-year-old the eighth and youngest president of the French Fifth Republic. Macron won this landslide victory amid a deep left/right divide and political chaos in France. As anti-globalization and populism plagues Europe and the world, pragmatic cooperation between China and France will pump new energy into global governance as well as Sino-French and Sino-EU ties under the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative.
China and France have many commonalities regarding global governance. For instance, Macron told US President Donald Trump in a telephone call that he would defend the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The French government lauds China`s support for the Paris Agreement. In his congratulation message to Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he would uphold the Paris deal and remain committed to emissions reduction. Both Xi and Macron strive for economic globalization and global economic governance, and their joint support, innovation and coordination will definitely boost global governance at a time of unprecedented challenges brought about by the Trump administration.
Macron`s pragmatic approach will contribute to solving global hotspot issues. The Iran nuclear deal framework announced in 2015 after negotiations between Iran, EU, the US, China, Russia, France, Britain, and Germany opened a new chapter in tackling this issue. China, EU and France have forged close communication and have mediated at the critical point of the negotiations in a bid to affect a peaceful resolution to the Iran nuclear issue. The political solution of the issue proposed by China, France and the EU can be applied to breaking the stalemate in Syria. Under the framework of Common Foreign and Security Policy, Macron should strengthen his coordination and exchange with China and prompt the relevant parties involved to end the conflict. Relevant powers should join hands with China to address the Syria issue.
Polling after the first round of elections has shown a deepening division is plaguing the French society. However, Macron`s centric pragmatism is an antidote. He invoked former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping`s maxim "it doesn`t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice" in response to a question on French commercial radio network RTL about how the then-candidate saw the left/right divide in France as a way to illustrate his centrist and moderate reforms to overcome sluggish domestic economic growth and high unemployment rate. In addition, his book Revolution endorses the great achievements China has scored. The aforementioned has laid the groundwork for Sino-French cooperation under the B&R initiative.
There is enormous potential for China and France to enhance cooperation in the five realms of the initiative. In terms of policy coordination, both Xi and Macron have shown their willingness to expand cooperation.
As for unimpeded trade, more efforts should be ramped up to boost French exports such as civil aviation, machinery, nuclear power, chemical and agricultural products, advance environmental protection technology while easing limits on high-tech exports in order to reduce its relatively large trade deficit with China.
As to industrial coordination, Beijing and Paris should seek common ground from the China-proposed "Made in China 2025" and France-initiated "Industry of the Future" to spur transformation in China`s manufacturing sector and new digitalization in French industries.
Cooperation in bank credit should be pushed forward to encourage connectivity and financial integration. The volume and freight capacity of the China-Europe freight train between China and France should be increased. China`s overseas investment and construction in French infrastructure upgrading should be intensified. Paris has become a leading RMB offshore financial center in the Eurozone and China-France outbound investment and convenient trade will further facilitate RMB settlement. Exchanges in education and tourism sectors should also be promoted.
A comprehensive China-France strategic partnership will surely reinvigorate global governance and cooperation in the B&R initiative.
The author is an assistant research fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.