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China, France Can Become Ideal Market Economies
French President Emmanuel Macron sent his special representative Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a veteran French politician, to attend the Belt and Road Initiative Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in May, only a few days after winning the French election, signaling he would visit China at an appropriate time soon. In fact, he announced his intention of visiting China when he met with President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, in early July.
Although it took six months for him to embark on his three-day state visit to China, which started on Monday, it gave him enough time to prepare for his first trip to Asia as French president. Macron has been making efforts to expand cooperation with the Belt and Road Initiative, which is aimed at boosting connectivity among Asia, Europe and Africa. He met some of the senior officials who attended the high-level forum on the Belt and Road Initiative in Paris in September, and recently pledged to deepen cooperation with the participants in the initiative.
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Macron visited Xi'an in Shanxi province, the starting point of the ancient Silk Road, on Monday before holding formal talks with Xi. Hopefully, his endeavors will help him understand China better and lead to fruitful and in-depth discussions between the two leaders.
He has also sent his own message across to China-through his book Revolution, whose Chinese translation went on sale in China to coincide with his visit. In the book, he has vowed to reshape the change-resistant but challenge-laden France and European Union by launching radical reforms. He has also urged the West to view China as an opportunity, instead of a threat.
The 40-year-old Macron has highlighted reforms at the right time, as this year China will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the launch of opening-up and reform, which led to unprecedented economic development and transformed the country into the world's second-largest economy.
China has vowed to deepen market-oriented reform in the country, while promoting globalization and helping improve global governance regime. These pledges are in line with Macron's policy recommendations for France and the EU.
Xi first visited the EU headquarters in Brussels in early 2014, and entered into an agreement with the bloc that both sides would establish a reform partnership. So while pushing their respective reform agenda at home, China and France can work together to strengthen globalization and free trade, and Xi and Macron are expected to touch upon the issue during their talks.
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Macron is not alone in promoting reform, and deepening cooperation with China. A widely-circulated video filmed by a French national, who after working for years in China could not adjust to the life in France upon his return, shows French citizens are willing to usher in WeChat, a social media communication app, and mobile payment schemes. The French video-maker introduced WeChat and other mobile apps that are popular in China to France.
Macron should take such public needs into consideration while implementing new reforms in France and the EU, especially because China is making efforts to improve its business environment. And to attract more Chinese investment to further invigorate its economy, France should refrain from acting like the United States, which has been misusing so-called security reasons to stop China's investments in the US despite their beneficial impact on the American economy.
Macron is a reformer, but he also supported other EU leaders in launching an investment screening system in the name of protecting the strategic sectors. The French president would do good to realize that such moves carry the risk of stemming inbound investment and forcing other countries to take counter measures.
Given the state of the global economy and rising anti-globalization sentiments in many parts of the world, it is crucial for China and France to set an example for other countries by functioning like true market economies which welcome reform and open trade.