Fifty years of Franco-Chinese relations

Wednesday 20 March 2019: Fifty years of Franco-Chinese relations, lecture by His Excellency Claude Martin, Ambassador of France.

Author of a voluminous work, "Diplomacy is not a gala dinner", which analyzes the political, economic, social and cultural evolution of China from 1964 to the present day, Claude Martin traces his career since the School of Oriental Languages, the Institute of Political Science and the National School of Administration which led him, instead of his military service, to the French Embassy in Beijing in 1964, year of the recognition of China by General de Gaulle.

As one of the few members of the Chinese speaking mission, he served as a "handyman" traveling the country by train and Beijing by bicycle. During this first stay, he was able to note that a certain opacity reigned everywhere, the cultural revolution being underlining (mistrust vis-à-vis intellectual elites, party cadres, bourgeois ...), and bookstores not proposing as the works of Mao. Despite his lack of diplomacy, this first experience was instructive but frustrating for him because of the difficulty of conversing with the Chinese without immediately drawing the suspicions of the local authorities. He was, however, very impressed by the artistic activity, especially the revolutionary operas which could be of great beauty. He thought that if it had been focused on something other than politics, the country's energy could have provided a factor of economic development of undeniable value.

Back in France, Claude Martin enters the Quai d'Orsay to deal with European issues, Europe being his primary vocation. Yet, far from forgetting China, he continues to go there frequently and to follow with great interest the events that occur there.

If 1971 was a decisive year marked by President Nixon's visit to Beijing, the mysterious disappearance of Mao's damned soul Mao during the Cultural Revolution, and China's entry into the United Nations, the year 1974 deserves mention. special. It is indeed the year of the establishment of cultural relations between our two countries and, following Deng Xiaoping's official visit to Paris, the opportunity to sign some contracts.

Claude Martin will then return to Beijing as Minister-Counselor at the French Embassy from 1978 to 1984. Returning to Paris in 1986, he is appointed Director of Asia Oceania, a position he holds for four years. Nevertheless, he is following the Chinese business closely, and in November 1990, he returns as an ambassador in Beijing, where he will work to restore a relationship of trust with China in a difficult context (sales case). Frigates and Mirages). He returned to Paris in November 1993 to devote himself once again to Europe, without forgetting China.

After Mao Zedong's death in 1976, the "war of succession" pushes Deng Xiaoping to 1978, when he returns to business to become China's leader. For ten years, he will be the architect of the opening of the country. During this period, the economic and cultural boom is considerable: literature, cinema (which will win many prizes in the world), painting with the group "The Stars" founded by Ma Desheng. In the beginning, the artists are very influenced by the Western art but will, little by little, to emancipate them. This is also true in literature where we see writers, such as Wang Zhengqi, A Cheng or Mo Yan who will receive a Nobel Prize in 2012, free from constraints. This effervescence, this artistic and cultural freedom were not doubled by a political freedom; also the recovery in hand by the Party from 1986, she led to the events of 1989 and the suppression of demonstrations on the Tien'anmen Square, causing a violent reaction in France, especially from the Prime Minister Michel Rocard who wanted to cut any relation with China. According to Claude Martin, the sanctions demanded were stupid and led for four years to the complete freeze of Franco-Chinese relations, both in the cultural and economic fields. Then contacts gradually resumed and reports gradually normalized. Because even if China is not really a democracy, it is a leading partner, in 2001, entered the World Trade Organization. However, despite the counterparts on human rights demanded by the West and the promises of the Chinese government, the country has not made any reforms and Hu Jintao, president since 2003, was a soft reformer. It is the time of intense corruption but also of economic progress and artistic creations. The yoke of the Party seems less heavy and, alongside traditional art, a new contemporary art is developing. After the departure of hundreds of artists who emigrated in the 1980 years, those who remained have opportunities for exposure: "So China?" At the Pompidou Center in 2003, or temporary work abroad. The Western market of Chinese contemporary art is launched. But political disagreements remain. The Tibetan problem causes tension between Europe and China. In 2008, the president of the European Union, Nicolas Sarkozy, who was reluctant to visit China because he asked for the rehabilitation of the Dalai Lama and reforms for Tibet, nevertheless attended the opening of the Beijing Olympics. The 2010 World Expo is taking place in Shanghai, giving China the opportunity to claim the importance of its culture in the world. In 2013, François Hollande is the first head of state received by the new president Xi Jinping to restore damaged relations. On the domestic front, Xi Jinping is launching an anti-corruption campaign to restore the Party's virtue, dignity and legitimacy. At the international level, he asks Westerners to assume the intellectual and political differences of his country. We are today in a difficult relationship with China, because its economic power allows it to dictate the rules. However, there is some question as to whether, at a given moment, the dialogue could not have been better led, given that China still seems to be strengthening in the face of a hardening environment.

This conference, which took place in front of a large audience including, in addition to our members, representatives of the diplomatic world, Franco-Asian friendships of the Senate, and collectors under the leadership of Galerie Livinec, aroused keen interest.

It was followed by a friendly drink where the participants, who came in large numbers, were able to make fruitful exchanges in the bright room of the Buddha.

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