President calls for "mutual understanding" with China

China – Bilateral relations/climate/multilateralism/fight against terrorism/European Union – Speech by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, at the Daming Palace (excerpts)

Xi’an, 8 January 2018

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Bilateral relations

For a long time, the French nation has gazed at itself in the mirror of China; thought, poetry and art have been reflected in it over the centuries, but also considerations about war, power and human life, and a whole imaginary realm of adventures and journeys based on extraordinary merchandise and unique discoveries. (…)

This still persists today, because China is a country of inventors and engineers who constantly invent the future. This China of merchants is also the China of diasporas around the world, who have gradually transformed cities and in whom France – which has Europe’s largest Chinese diaspora – take pride. (…)

It’s also the China of writers and thinkers, the China discovered nearly 450 years ago by the first Jesuit mission.

It’s the China we French constantly scrutinize and question, because from the outset we’ve seen in the Chinese way of thinking a vision of the world, rooted in other beliefs, other ideas than our own. And yet for more than 200 years we’ve found in that very difference a reason to question our own beliefs, but also to believe in a human community, because that difference very often means convergence; our poets have felt this best. (…)

Nothing can replace this fruitful contact between our two languages, our two universes, our cultures – ever-living proof that dialogue is possible, and above all that neither of our cultures is monolithic. There are several theories about China.

And when we come from Europe and try to understand and find our way through, some people tell you: it’s an incomprehensible continent, you can never get inside China, we’re irreconcilable, and we each pretend to get through and, in a way, understand each other. For all the reasons I’ve just mentioned, I don’t believe in that theory. (…)

Sinology in Europe was born in France. The philosophers and historians of the 19th century always referred to French people when trying to understand China. (…)

European sinology is still reinventing itself today in France and remains a central discipline of our intellectual landscape, and for more than two centuries Inalco [National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations] has been its driving force. (…)

I strongly believe that – if we can commit ourselves to it – the understanding between Europe, France and China, based on jointly defined principles and projects, can be a mutual understanding that brings out the best. I’ve come here to, as you say in China, cast a brick to attract jade [i.e. float an idea]. The world needs this shared understanding to curb the increasingly rapid rise of all forms of obscurantism, the Islamist terrorism that fuels crises everywhere, the weakness of states, instability, the blind nationalism that seeks out brutal confrontation and always leads to war, self-absorption fuelled by the illusion of protecting oneself from the world, and sometimes also obliviousness to the consequences of climate disruption, which is undermining the very possibility of life on earth. (…)

In one generation you’ve been able to find in you the strength to become one of the world’s supreme powers, and you’re now setting yourselves the goal of entering into deep waters. While the world hasn’t been shaken by this, it’s been profoundly changed. The very speed of this change may arouse fears, because everything here is vaster, more dazzling, more assertive than elsewhere. The only way of overcoming these fears is to try and understand what power means for each of us. (…)

We’re well known here for our way of life, our heritage, our gastronomy, the romanticism you talk about in China, and we resolutely lay claim to all that. But France isn’t only that. It’s also a power in the digital sector, the energy transition, research, training, innovation and the industry of the future, a major financial centre, a living and influential culture with a great deal to contribute to the world, and the transformations we’re carrying out today are living proof that France is and will be at the heart of Europe.

Education

What we’re carrying out in France today are the profound transformations that will enable us – through reform of education, higher education and the various sectors of the economy – to let France’s knowledge exert its full influence and build this dialogue with you. Instead of us each going off alone to conquer the world through understanding, we’ll be stronger if we can do it together. (…)

I’d then like us to speed up our academic and scientific exchanges by giving new momentum to European sinology through a major joint European institute combining skills and research, but also by forging new partnerships in innovation, the digital sector and technologies. (…)

Technology

Subsequently by developing a major partnership in the digital sector, to meet technological needs. (…) And in this area I’d like us to strengthen our cooperation – I’ll have the opportunity to repeat this in Beijing tomorrow –, especially on artificial intelligence. There are many areas where we have a lot to do, but this is an area where the excellence we have in our universities, our research centres and our entrepreneurs can lead to shared successes if we’re able to identify research programmes together, data sharing and the essential exchanges that will enable us to go further.

We must also forge this partnership to enable more innovation in terms of the energy transition, to reduce energy consumption, develop and speed up renewable energy production and transform battery technologies; there’s also the partnership we want to forge on medical innovation, especially linked to the Silver Economy; and finally there’s the partnership we’d like to forge on agricultural and agrifood innovation: we have fundamental challenges to take up on this in our two countries, the desire to build our food sovereignty and open up to each other, and research must be part of this challenge that has opened up for us.

French language

It’s also, finally, about encouraging language learning from the earliest age, because I want to tell the French-speaking students in this hall: you’ve made the right choice. French is a strength for the future: today it’s the world’s fifth most widely-spoken language, the fourth Internet language, the third language for business and the world’s second most learned language, which will be spoken by 700 million people by the middle of the century, 85% of them in Africa. It can be spoken even more if you decide to make it your own. China must be a Francophone land, because French is a language that has always been created through dialogue with other languages, by transmitting culture to others, through permanent exchanges.

French isn’t a hegemonic language, it’s a language that is built only through multilingualism, and the fact that so many of you have made this choice is a source of hope for me. I have only one wish: make French the world’s leading language in the next 30 to 40 years by deciding to speak it. (…)

Social justice

The second pillar on which we can base our understanding is justice, in other words balance. Between powers that express themselves, between forces that are present, we must always find justice. First of all social justice, which means men and women aren’t condemned from birth to give up their aspirations and dreams; it means one living person has as much chance as another to take action and be fulfilled. We share a desire to combat inequalities. (…)

From such global inequalities, only destructive confrontation can emerge. That’s why we must set ourselves the common goal of shared development, and we can achieve it together, firstly in our societies and for our societies. Together we can work to promote, in particular, that key to the future, education, and develop school and educational strategies together; it’s through schooling that social determinism is checked, and it’s through schooling that inequalities at birth are gradually corrected.

Africa

That’s why, in the reforms currently being conducted by the government, the reform of primary and secondary schools and university is central to our priorities and will continue to be developed, and that’s also why I think dialogue between our school education and university systems is one of the key objectives in this fight against inequality. But I’m also thinking of Africa. China has invested a great deal there in recent years, in its infrastructure and raw materials, with a financial clout the European countries don’t have. At the same time, France has a historic and cultural knowledge of Africa that gives it many strengths for the future.

So there too, we must conduct projects together that are really useful to the continent’s growth and financially sustainable, because therein lies the future and because we mustn’t reproduce the mistakes of the past, which consist in creating political and financial dependency under the pretext of development. Tomorrow the French Development Agency and the China Development Bank will sign an agreement putting into practice this new approach we must move towards, and I very much hope China will make this commitment to Africa. (…)

France has experience of a unilateral imperialism in Africa that sometimes led to the worst things, and today – with these new Silk Roads opening up – I think that, through the partnership between France and China, we can avoid repeating those mistakes, but above all find that path of justice I’m talking about, the only path on which the inequalities existing in African societies – where you’re developing, where we’re developing – can be eliminated, the only path that will allow Africa’s civil societies, businesses and people to move forward and improve educational standards and living standards, as its leaders profoundly wish. We’re facing a moral challenge, and I very much hope we can take it up together.

Indeed, this economic development will be fragile if it isn’t based on education; I’d therefore like us to work together for the success of the Global Partnership for Education conference that we’re organizing with Senegal in Dakar in February, to offer new prospects for Africa’s young people. (…)

Environment

Beyond these economic inequalities, where together we can change the face of the world, there’s an injustice peculiar to our time where we must play a fully active role, namely climate injustice. As we know, disruption affects the poorest countries first, even though they aren’t those most responsible. That’s the twofold injustice of climate disruption: the most vulnerable countries are those which aren’t yet developed and which today have to suffer the consequences of previous decades and sometimes centuries, and in this regard we have a special responsibility. Following the American decision – which I regret – to withdraw from the Paris Agreement , China played a decisive role in protecting that achievement of 2015, for which France had shouldered its full responsibilities, because China made protecting the environment a national priority based on the idea of ecological civilization. In the space of a few years, your country has become the leading investor and the leading global market in renewable energy.

It’s also diversifying its energy mix with nuclear energy, where tomorrow we’ll endorse new steps forward that will also allow China to meet its targets. This determination reflects your interests but it’s also crucial at global level, given your country’s size and growth trajectory as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, as well as its leadership in Asia and the world. I say to you very sincerely that if China had made a different decision last year, the Paris Agreement would probably not have survived. And we owe a great deal to China’s decision to remain within its framework. (…)

At the G20, President Xi confirmed to me that China’s decision to honour the commitments made was firm and irrevocable. Then, at the One Planet Summit organized in Paris in December, China stepped up to the plate by announcing the creation of a national carbon market, which represents a considerable step forward for carbon pricing in the world. We must pause and get an idea of how far things have come. It’s a long way. (…)

What’s at issue is justice. So how do we approach it? As in the art of war, our invincibility depends on us. So I’m making three proposals: the first is to strengthen our means of consultation, in order to prepare together the meetings where we’ll step up our commitments: COP24 and the Convention on Biological Diversity, which China will host in 2020. I’d like France to stand fully alongside it, and we’ll help China organize that important conference, which contributes to that collective global responsibility.

Secondly, new energy, drawing on our societies’ strength, dynamism and inventiveness. I’ll be proposing to President Xi a Franco-Chinese ecological transition year 2018-2019, to mobilize our businesses, our start-ups, our researchers, our students, our universities, our cities, our regions, and show the world that we, the French and Chinese, are capable of making our planet great and beautiful again. (…)

The third key objective is to write the international law of our time, through the Global Pact for the Environment that France promoted at the United Nations. Significant work done by lawyers in France – with an invaluable contribution from the Constitutional Council and numerous French lawyers, involving a wide range of their Chinese counterparts and men and women from several countries – led to an initial text. We presented it in September, when I took the initiative of a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

China was represented there at the highest level. Today it’s very important for us to move forward on this project together, in order to conclude it by 2020. It’s a new stone in our international legal edifice, a step that will enable us not only to increase rights but also to draw every conclusion from them in terms of effectiveness and therefore responsibility for everyone.

To that end, as a permanent member of the Security Council, as a major friend, our mission for the future is to define together this new language of contemporary multilateralism, in order to uphold the goods we share, especially the climate and the environment. (…)

On these common goods, our visions today are profoundly aligned, and we walk together when it comes to the climate. Increasingly we have visions which are similar and can converge when it comes to peace and stability. We must now work, harmonize our views and build this common language when trade among nations is discussed. That’s also what I’ve come to do, and we have to make progress together along this path. (…)

Multilateralism

Finally, there’s a third pillar to the shared battle I’m proposing to you, namely equilibrium. We have our respective histories, they’ve always consisted of tension, a complex relationship between the internal and the external, periods of hegemony, imperialist desires, each in our own way, at sea or on land, hang-ups about what lies outside, or self-absorption at other times in our history. But there’s one thing that unites us, namely that our two countries – because they are two civilizations – have always considered themselves only in this relationship with the world. Not so many countries on this planet have that distinctive characteristic. (…)

We live in a world whose equilibriums were decided a little over 70 years ago at the end of one of the worst conflicts we’ve experienced, in which barbarism struck in particular at Europe’s heart. We organized globalization through international law, structures to which China is central, as a permanent member of the Security Council like us, but sometimes, I also know, there’s the feeling of its having been sidelined, the feeling that China may have had to say to itself: “This postwar order is a Western order not entirely made for us.”

Sometimes those Western powers may have contributed to that feeling. Today we’re experiencing a crisis of that contemporary world order, because it’s been weakened by the emergence of authoritarian powers, because nuclear proliferation has resumed, reshaping it, and because contemporary capitalism has been outstripped by its own excesses and produced social inequalities that I was mentioning earlier, and the climate inequalities we’re experiencing. (…)

North Korea

In the case of North Korea, there are only two options. Either we are divided and let North Korea continue its provocations, challenge our authority and threaten the world’s security – and then, beyond the immediate danger itself, the whole structure of the fight against proliferation will be shattered – or we’re capable of exerting pressure together on Pyongyang so that the regime seriously returns to the negotiating table, and this will demonstrate that the very notion of collective security still has some credibility.

France has made its choice, and here I want to pay tribute to China’s responsibility in implementing the sanctions decided on by the United Nations Security Council. I’m expecting a lot of China, which has powerful levers on North Korea, and I know it too is expecting a lot of us in promoting paths, means of resuming dialogue. (…)

Terrorism

On the fight against terrorism, a major concern for our two countries, we have no alternative to a collective response. (…)

From Central Asia to South-East Asia, there are many threats that can weaken the whole continent. So our responsibility is to fight together, again by building political solutions to conflicts and learning from the mistakes of the past. I want to say here very clearly that I believe in a shared view of how to address these conflicts. In every country where divisions exist, where authoritarian regimes are at play, where sometimes the worst things are under way, France will not uphold military solutions that will counter people’s sovereignty. But we’ll do everything to work with civil society and with our friends to help pluralist political solutions emerge that will allow everyone to be respected, terrorism to be eradicated and lasting political solutions to be built. (…)

In this regard, I’d like us to work together, and especially to work together closely with China to help bring about inclusive political solutions in Libya and Syria in the coming months, but given the challenge I mentioned just now, I’d also like us to work together to combat all forms of terrorism financing.

One of the fundamental challenges facing us today in ensuring our collective security is to dry up all forms of funding for terrorist movements. Victory in the Iraq and Syria region will cut off some of their access to the natural resources and raw materials that have enabled them to develop for several years. In future, they’ll gain more access to the various trades in weapons, people and drugs. If we want to curb the development of terrorism in every form, we’ll have to dry up its funding.

Multilateralism

That’s the purpose of the conference we’ve decided to organize in Paris in April, and in this regard I’d like us to work closely together. In today’s world, China and France define themselves as multilateralist powers. This multilateralism is challenged by the increasingly clear assertion of a unilateralism which questions the principle of borders’ inviolability, as when Crimea was annexed, and the principle of international law, as was the case on the issue of Jerusalem.

So today we must profoundly reinvent multilateralism, and reinvent it entirely on the basis of this notion of equilibrium that we promote. (…)

China knows the difference between supremacy and hegemony. It’s demonstrated its ability to engage in the fight against climate change, and successfully held the G20 presidency, including in relation to difficult issues like overcapacity. President Xi’s speech at the Davos forum last year raised huge expectations for all those who are determined to combat protectionism. Following the 19th Congress, China is no longer keeping a low profile, to quote President Xi Jinping: it’s asserting its determination to project itself abroad.

My dear friends, when one occupies a role, one bears a share of responsibility. So this multilateralism that has to be redefined means inventing balanced cooperation projects for the century that has begun. It can’t be disguised supremacy and it can’t be a conflict between concurrent supremacies. Our art, if I can use the term, won’t be the art of war but the art of balanced cooperation, to guarantee that harmony our world needs at the geostrategic, political and economic levels.

China and Europe

When multilateralism as we know it is challenged, and when China wants to commit itself, the conclusion for me is very clear. It’s up to Europe and Asia, France and China, to identify and propose together the rules of a game in which we’ll all win or all lose. So I’ve come to tell China of my determination to move the Euro-Chinese partnership into the 21st century so it becomes part of this new language we have to define together. Europe will resolutely commit itself to this strategy, because it’s now aware of its role and its place in the century that has begun.

It will be active on all the major issues, as an attentive and effective interlocutor. Yes, my friends, what I also came here to tell you today is that Europe is back. (…)

I also know that some people may have thought Europe was finished after the crisis of 2008-2010. I also know how much Europe itself may have contributed to that perception when it spent so very many years divided in its own quarrels, which were only internal quarrels, and lacking vision. Today our Europe is back. It’s back because a few of us want to give it back a prospect for the medium term – 10 or 15 years – and rebuild a sovereign, united, democratic Europe that can be the economic, social, environmental and scientific power capable of talking to China and the United States.

I’ve had this ambition since I began my mandate. Together with the German Chancellor, as well as a number of other European leaders, I’m working on a plan to give the heart of Europe these elements of sovereignty and these projects, and in this respect 2018 will be a turning point. (…)

For me, this transformation must also lead us to rethink the structure of the bilateral relationship. There’s sometimes been mistrust – that must clearly be said: legitimate questions asked by China and sometimes a fear on the European side of Chinese interests, Chinese power. So I want us together to draw up the rules of a balanced relationship where we each have something to gain and whose framework we must define, first of all politically, with sectors where we want to cooperate together and open up access and markets on both sides, and sectors of our economies where we don’t want to open up.

In that way – through honest, fair, transparent dialogue – we’ll be able to move forward. I’d like this approach to be adopted today for the bilateral relationship. While I was preparing for this visit, a lot of people explained to me that the word “reciprocity” couldn’t be translated into Chinese. Others told me: the thing is, the word “reciprocity” mustn’t actually be translated into Chinese because it is, as diplomats say, an irritant; it can rub people up the wrong way. Well, you see, that was a long circumlocution to avoid talking about reciprocity and ultimately to say: when you build a relationship of friendship, what you’re looking for is balanced cooperation. (…)

Silk Roads

Similarly, I’d like us to be able to make headway on these Silk Roads. Indeed, China has mapped out its way ahead through the One Belt One Road Initiative and proposed it to the world.

When a proposal is on the table, I don’t usually refrain from discussing it. I understand the opportunities for China in economic terms through the search for new international markets; in political terms for opening up certain regions affected by under-development; in diplomatic terms for stabilizing (…) vulnerable areas where there are states in difficulty and developing regions; and in cultural terms, since this is also about exercising leadership with the power of new ideas.

I also think that the new Silk Roads initiative can fit in with our interests, those of France and Europe, if we genuinely give ourselves the means to work on it together. (…)

So I’m ready to work on the stated objectives. The road, rail, airport, maritime and technological infrastructure programmes along the Silk Roads may partly provide an answer to the lack of infrastructure, particularly in Asia, and create opportunities in sectors such as transport, water and waste management, sustainable cities and the green economy. The pooling of public and private financial resources for cross-border projects can strengthen the connectivity between Europe and Asia and beyond, as far as the Middle East and Africa, and make it possible to integrate, structure and open up growth more effectively through trade. (…)

But these Silk Roads won’t fully succeed unless they manage to create this balanced cooperation, this shared wealth and encourage people to launch projects and put evil desires, radicalism, fanaticism, self-absorption behind them to embrace a better future. Of course, I’m well aware of the power relationships existing in any formative international initiative, wherever it comes from. And so I think that to make progress on our shared goals together, we’ve also got to set ourselves the right rules, work in common with this spirit of balanced cooperation and have a desire for coherence. (…)

These Silk Roads must draw on this spirit of justice, as I mentioned, and therefore in a way be green Silk Roads. So it’s essential for investment, infrastructure development and the decisions being taken up and down these Silk Roads to be consistent with our own international goals and what we’re deciding in our own countries.

Transparency, interoperability, openness in public procurement, compliance with competition and intellectual property rules, and risk-sharing are subjects we’re addressing together in the G20 framework. Abiding by these principles is of course essential, quite simply because they allow a mutually beneficial partnership and greater financial sustainability, thus enabling projects under way to succeed. They will also have to inform this new philosophy, and this will be at the heart of the dialogue we’ll have to conduct.

This will be the subject of my discussions with President Xi Jinping to set out together this agenda of trust which I want us to implement. I know some people would still like to say: “this agenda of trust must stem from a balance, that of a developed power and a developing power. But China is no longer a developing country, it has gone way beyond that. And so we need to devise the terms of a new relationship here too, and the Silk Roads are the very expression of China’s new relationship with the world. I would like us, in our dialogue, to take on board all the consequences of this. (…)

I’m ready to play a driving role in achieving this by ensuring that the European countries move forward in unity, because China needs a solid interlocutor to discuss and build on its initiative. I also hope the future Silk Roads won’t be restricted to economic issues but will be illuminated in Europe by a deeper understanding of China. (…)

Bilateral relations

A few weeks ago, my family and I visited a baby panda born in France. As well as experiencing the enjoyment of the youngest members of my family – and, admittedly, my enjoyment and that of my wife, who is their godmother – I sought a few preliminary signs from him regarding my visit to China, and it didn’t take me long to find one. His name alone was enough to enlighten me. The baby panda’s name is actually Yuang Meng, “the fulfilment of a dream”. We’re living in a time when France and China can allow themselves to dream together. (…)

I know that trust is earned gradually. I also know that the grapheme for wisdom in Chinese is the same as for listening. So I’ve decided to adopt an approach: to say things as I’ve said them today, to try and plot a course, as I’ll be doing with President Xi Jinping, and trustfully, methodically listen, make proposals, move forward and build trust; create together this path of loyalty, mutual reliability. For this, I’ll be returning to China at least once a year throughout my term of office, because it’s a prerequisite in order for our relationship to enter a new era, embark on a profound political change, and for us to take on board all the consequences of these early stages of renewal represented by the presidential election in France in May last year, and the 19th Congress in China which made a profound change possible. (…)

At the heart of our two nations momentum is building which will make tomorrow’s world one which measures up to the challenges facing mankind. It’s this momentum that I want to share, develop and build with you. Our great past gives us an insatiable interest in the future and this future awaits us. (…)./.

Published on 19/01/2018

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