October 16, 2007
Some of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s public utterances understandably worry Beijing. What will be the changes in Sino-French relations as result of Sarkozy succeeding the Sinophile, Jacques Chirac?
Concern is expressed about Sarkozy’s pro-American policy and greater pragmatism in his attitude towards China. Sarkozy’s absolute priority is domestic reform and everything he says and does has this in mind.
Jacques Chirac is a Sinophile and loves Chinese culture. He also used his warm relationship with the Chinese leadership in trade negotiations. However, he is mainly to blame for the arms embargo not being lifted. This was carefully planned following the EU commitment, but Chirac, without prior consultation or even notification, announced that it would be lifted while he was concluding trade deals. This statement was quickly supported by Schroeder.The Commission and Member States were caught unawares and the anti-Chinese (Taiwan, human rights, protectionist…) and American lobbies plus the Anti-secession law did the rest.
Sarkozy will have to sing to the French domestic protectionist lobby. This does not mean that his singing will be converted into action. Sarkozy is an enigma to Europeans. He is a French trade liberal – whatever that means. He both says he believes in free trade and at the same time industrial policy and building European (preferably French) champions.
But then this he shares with Beijing! There is an old English adage that “actions speak louder than words”. Sarkozy’s rhetoric should be ignored but his actions watched closely.Author : Stanley Crossick