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Commentary: Pragmatism key to success of Macron's first state visit to China

2018/1/8 10:06:00   source:Xinhua

Asked about the divide between left and right during the French presidential election last year, the then candidate Emmanuel Macron said: "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice" -- a famous maxim of late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

From his reply, one can gauge Macron's familiarity with Chinese philosophy as well as his deep-rooted pragmatism, which enabled him to answer the question in a manner bridging ideological and cultural differences.

With a similar pragmatism, Macron kicked off his first state visit to China on Sunday. Twenty days ahead of the 54th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between China and France, the trip is set to chart the future course of and generate new impetus for the development of bilateral relations.

Highly anticipated, the trip offers a golden opportunity for both sides to further coordinate their stances on major global issues. As the red carpet will roll out amid a 21-gun salute, with even the Forbidden City opening for Macron, the trip is expected to lift China-France relations and the French leader's personal friendship with Chinese leaders to new heights.

China-France ties are currently at their peak, with Paris being Beijing's fourth largest trading partner in the European Union (EU) and Beijing ranking the first among France's Asian trading partners.

On the global level, France and China find more and more common ground on major issues such as climate change, anti-terrorism and global governance reform.

The sound development of bilateral ties in the last 54 years has laid a solid foundation for Macron's visit. Bilateral relations will be further enhanced if he remains pragmatic, which is particularly helpful amid a smear campaign against China by some Western politicians and media recently.

For one thing, pragmatism helps Macron better understand the urgency and necessity of a closer France-China cooperation on a global level.

As two permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and France play important roles in safeguarding world peace and stability. Being practical helps Macron realize the vacuum of leadership left by the "America First" policy and its resultant damage.

In addition, no country on the planet can face increasingly complicated and diversified challenges alone. The China-France relationship has become more and more strategic in the current situation. It is the two nations' shared historical responsibility to strengthen cooperation.

Furthermore, pragmatism will help Macron properly assess the full potential of France-China cooperation.

With China and France respectively being the world's second and fifth largest economies, the potential of bilateral cooperation is enormous. China's industrial production capacity and France's advanced technologies are a natural fit. If so, the pie of common interests will become even bigger. But that requires true statesmanship.

Last but not least, pragmatism could help Macron clearly see that China represents opportunity for, not a threat to France, and Europe at large.

Despite increasing mutual trust and demonstrable win-win results, certain extend of China-phobia can be felt in Brussels and other capital cities on the continent.

What is worse, some politicians exploit the fear and drum up votes by depicting China's investment as a scheme to steal EU's high technology and its Belt and Road Initiative as a conspiracy to undermine Europe's security.

In this context, it is necessary for French-Sino collaboration in building up mutual trust, respect and understanding between Europe and China. It is high time to discard bias against China.

To do that also requires practical thinking and long-term vision. The truth, in the case of the Belt and Road Initiative, is that European countries like Greece, Poland and Spain have greatly benefited from Chinese investment.

Fifty-four years ago, the French government led by Charles de Gaulle, the founding father of France's Fifth Republic, recognized the People's Republic of China. His statesmanship and pragmatism helped France win the respect and friendship of the Chinese people.

Fifty-four years later, his admirer, Macron, faces another chance to strengthen the weathered relationship. To accomplish this, he needs to practice his pragmatism, like his idol did over half a century ago.

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