Covid-19: China seeks French cooperation

Paris – China has asked France to cooperate on developing a coronavirus vaccine and defending global multilateralism, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday after meeting President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron told reporters after the meeting that France will not ban the Chinese tech giant Huawei but would rather use Nokia and Ericsson to develop the country’s 5G network for security reasons.

He said he had told Chinese President Xi Jinping about his decision, adding “it’s normal that … we want a European solution” because of “the importance of the security of our communication,” according to Associated Press.

Wang said that China was ready to cooperate with France on nuclear power plants and in tackling the Covid-19 outbreak, according to a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry.

He told Macron that the two countries should work together on drugs and vaccine research, support the leading role of the World Health Organisation and oppose the politicisation of the pandemic.

Wang also said China is a partner not a competitor for Europe, adding that Beijing wanted to see France and Europe helping to stabilise the global situation and defend multilateralism.

Macron said that the strategic communication between the two countries is of great importance and France was willing to deepen cooperation over Covid-19, trade and agriculture, according to the statement by the Chinese foreign ministry.

France is also willing to jointly support multilateralism and step up coordination on climate change, biodiversity and Africa, he said, adding that he looked forward to visiting China again.

During a meeting with the president’s foreign policy adviser Emmanuel Bonne, Wang called for a fast-track to facilitate personnel exchanges between the two countries.

He also said China is ready to press ahead with a nuclear project.

The two countries started discussing civilian-use nuclear projects in the early 2000s. The China National Nuclear Corporation and France’s Areva signed an agreement in 2014 to build a used fuel processing and recycling facility in China.

Liu Hua, director of the National Nuclear Safety Administration, said in September last year that talks on commercial cooperation were nearing the end and both sides were working on a unified set of security standards.

Wang said China is ready to work with France and Europe to discuss climate change and the digital economy, and a planned China-EU investment treaty.

France was the fourth leg of Wang’s European tour, which finishes in Germany. On Friday Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the European Union and China should continue a dialogue even on areas where they disagree, such as Hong Kong.

“We want to continue the conversation and set an example for multilateralism,” she said, according to Xinhua.

Yang Jiechi, the country’s top diplomat, will travel to Greece and Spain next week, with a potential stop in Portugal, after Wang wraps up his tour next Monday.

The rare back-to-back trips, coming at the time when the US is pressing European allies to align with its anti-China position, are part of the preparations for Xi’s virtual summit with the leaders of the EU and member states on September 14. (SCMP)