Xi ready to ‘break new ground’ with France after India inks big defence deals with Macron

File picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping
| Photo Credit: AP

Chinese President Xi Jinping has offered to “break new ground” to give a fillip to the China-France ties, days after French President Emmanuel Macron’s high-profile visit to India during which the two countries unveiled an ambitious defence roadmap besides intensifying cooperation in the strategic Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific region.

Mr. Macron’s visit to India also coincided with the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and France.

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In his message on the occasion, Mr. Xi said “As today’s world is once again at a critical crossroads, China and France should jointly open up a path of peace, security, prosperity and progress for human development.”

Mr. Xi said China attaches great importance to the development of bilateral ties and he stands ready to work with Mr. Macron to take the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations as an “opportunity to uphold fundamental principles, break new ground, build on past achievements, open up a new future, and make China-France comprehensive strategic partnership more solid and dynamic,” the official media reported.

China has offered to step up French imports to the country, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

“We will continue to unleash consumer and investment market demand, continue to expand the import of high-quality products and services from France”, he said and hoped that France too will provide Chinese companies with a fair, just and predictable business environment.

China prioritises ties with France as Mr. Macron is pushing Europe to become a third bloc, a balancing force between the US and China.

Hailing China-France ties, Chinese official media has called for stepping up cooperation in high-tech areas.

“Scientific and technological cooperation between France and China has been a cornerstone of their relationship. From aerospace and the nuclear industry to renewable energy, the two countries have made significant strides in joint research and development,” state-run China Daily said in its editorial.

President Macron was the sixth leader from France to be the chief guest at India’s 75th Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi on January 26.

Beijing kept a wary watch on Mr. Macron’s visit to India as Paris is emerging as a key defence partner to New Delhi amid efforts by the U.S. and European Union to court India as a counterweight to counter China.

After Mr. Macron’s talks with Prime Minister Modi, the two countries unveiled an ambitious defence industrial roadmap to co-develop critical military hardware besides firming up cooperation in the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific region, a key area of concern for China.

“Defence and security partnership has been the cornerstone of India-France partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, which includes a comprehensive range of bilateral, multinational, regional and institutional initiatives, especially in the Indian Ocean Region”, the joint statement issued after Mr. Macron’s visit to India said.

“They also agreed to intensify their cooperation in the Southwest Indian Ocean, building on the joint surveillance missions carried out from the French island territory of La Reunion in 2020 and 2022”, it said.

The intensification of India-France cooperation in the Indian Ocean concerns China as it tries to make forays in India’s backyard.

The US, India and several other world powers have been discussing the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China’s rising military manoeuvring in the resource-rich region.

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