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China

Hollande begins French trade visit to China

President Francois Hollande has begun a visit to China as France strives to catch up on other Western nations' trade with Asia's economic giant. Traveling with him is a large French trade delegation.

France accounts for just 1.3 percent of China's foreign trade. Germany's share amounts to around five percent. France is also burdened by a hefty trade deficit with China which amounted last year to 26 billion euros ($34 billion).

Hollande will be the first Western leader received by China's new President Xi Jinping. At Beijing's airport, Hollande was first greeted by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (pictured above).

Accompanying Hollande are eight French cabinet ministers and about 60 business executives. He is scheduled to address a business forum in Beijing and on Friday travel on to Shanghai, where he will speak at Jiaotong University.

Letters of intent are expected between Chinese Airlines and Airbus – in which France has a stake – and on the construction of a nuclear waste treatment facility.

That would involve the French nuclear giant Areva and the Chinese energy group CNNC. The French carmaker Renault is also reportedly aiming to set up a factory at Wuhan to produce 150,000 vehicles per year.

Three meetings are planned between Xi and Hollande, whose government is facing economic woes at home.

French newspapers mixed on China

Leading French newspapers had mixed reactions to Hollande's China visit.

France had slowly begun to grasp the importance of Asia for Europe, said Le Monde. The delay was enormous, it said, with China's surplus with France twice as high as its corresponding surplus with Germany, but it was not too late to make good. A Europe in recession is also bad for China, Le Monde added.

The center-left French newspaper Liberation accused Hollande of visiting "a giant jail called China" and described it as a "dictatorship" that espoused its political model "without shame."

Over 7 million Chinese were held in more than 1,000 facilities, Liberation wrote."However, Hollande will not utter a word on this. The president has locked away human rights in the backroom."

ipj/ccp (dpa, AFP)