France-China relations

France-China relations

France-China relations, also known as Sino-French relations or Franco-Chinese relations, refers to the interstate relations between China and France (Kingdom or later).

Note that the meaning of both "China" and "France" as entities has changed throughout history; this article will discuss what was commonly considered 'France' and 'China' at the time of the relationships in question. There have been many political, cultural and economic relationships between China and France.


17th and 18th centuries

Numerous French Jesuits were active in China during the 17th and 18th century: Nicolas Trigault (1577-1629), Alexander de Rhodes (1591-1660, active in Vietnam), Jean-Baptiste Régis (1663-1738), Jean Denis Attiret (1702-1768), Michel Benoist (1715-1774), Joseph-Marie Amiot (1718-1793).

French Jesuits pressured the French king to send them to China with the aims of counterbalancing the influence of Ottoman Empire in Europe. The Jesuits sent by Louis XIV were: Jean de Fontaney (1643-1710), Joachim Bouvet(1656-1730), Jean-François Gerbillon (1654-1707), Louis Le Comte (1655-1728) and Claude de Visdelou (1656-1737)). [ "Eastern Magnificence and European Ingenuity: Clocks of Late Imperial China" - Page 182 by Catherine Pagani (2001) [,M1] ] Returning to France, they noticed the similarity between Louis XIV of France and the Emperor Kangxi. Both were said to be the God servitor, and to control their respective area: France being the strongest country of Europe, and China being the strongest power in East Asia. Other biographical factors lead commentators to proclaim that Louis XIV and Kangxi were protected by the same Angel. (In childhood, they overcame the same illness; both reigned for a long time, with many conquests.)

Under Louis XIV's reign, the work of these French researchers sent by the King had a notable influence on Chinese sciences, but continued to be mere intellectual games, and not tools to improve the power of man on nature. Conversely, China was fashionable in France, examplified by the Chinoiserie fashion, and Louis XIV had the Trianon de Porcelaine built in Chinese style in 1670.

In the same time, the first ever know Chinese people came to the French Kingdom. Michel Sin went to Versaille in 1684 before continuing to England. More notable is Arcadio Huang, who cross the Kingdom in 1702, spend some time in Rome (for the Rites dispute), and came back to Paris in 1704, where he was the "Chinese interprete of the King", and died in 1716. He started the first ever Chinese-French dictionary, and a Chinese grammar to help French and European researchers to understand and study Chinese, but died before finishing his work.

In the 18th century, the French Jesuit Michel Benoist, together with Giuseppe Castiglione, helped the Qianlong Emperor build a European-style area in Old Summer Palace (often associated with the European-style palaces (Xi Yang Lou) built of stone), to satisfy his taste for exotic buildings and objects. Jean Denis Attiret became "Painter to the Emperor" Qianlong. Joseph-Marie Amiot (1718-1793) also won the confidence of the Qianlong Emperor and spent the remainder of his life at Beijing. He was official translator of Western languages for Emperor Qianlong, and the spiritual leader of the French mission in Peking. [Alain Peyrefitte, "Images de l'Empire Immobile", p.113]

19th century

In 1844, China and France concluded its first modern treaty, the Treaty of Whampoa.

In 1860, the Summer Palace was ransacked by French units. Many precious objects nowaday in French museums come from this looting.

;French Indochina era
Second Opium War,Sino-French War, and French Indochina, Eight-Nation Alliance.

Post World War II

France and the PRC had established ambassadorial level diplomatic relations by 1964, before either Great Britain and Germany did so with China. This was precipitated by Charles de Gaulle's official recognition of the People's Republic of China. Deng Xiaoping completed his studies in Paris prior to ascending to power in China.

Post-Cold War

This state of relations would not last, however. During the 1990's, France and the PRC repeatedly clashed as a result of the PRC's One China Policy. France sold weapons to Taiwan, angering the Beijing government. This resulted in the temporary closure of the French Consulate-General in Guangzhou. France eventually agreed to prohibit local companies from selling arms to Taiwan, and diplomatic relations resumed in 1994.

Since then, the two countries have exchanged a number of state visits. Today, Sino-French relations are primarily economic. Bilateral trade reached new high levels in 2000. Cultural ties between the two countries are less well represented, though France is making an effort to improve this disparity.


In 2008, Sino-French relations entered a brief period of uncertainty after widespread pro-human rights and pro-Tibet protests in Paris during the Olympic torch's relay through the French capital. Chinese media reported on the protests, provoking an angry, anti-French response by people in China. The Chinese government hinted that Sino-French friendship could be affected. [ [ "Raidissement des relations sino-françaises"] , Radio France Internationale, April 15, 2008] A call to boycott French hypermart Carrefour from 1 May began spreading through mobile text messaging and online chat rooms amongst the Chinese over the weekend from 12 April, accusing the company's major shareholder, the LVMH Group, of donating funds to the Dalai Lama. [cite web|url= |title=Chinese demand Carrefour boycott for Tibet "support" | |date=2008-04-15 |accessdate=2008-04-19 ] There were also calls to extend the boycott to include French luxury goods and cosmetic products. [cite web|url= |title=Carrefour boycott drive widens | |date=2008-04-15 |accessdate=2008-04-19 ] Chinese protesters organized boycotts of the French-owned retail chain Carrefour in major Chinese cities including Kunming, Hefei and Wuhan, accusing the French nation of pro-secessionist conspiracy and anti-Chinese racism. Some burned the French flag [cite news |url= |title=National flag of France with Hakenkreuz added by Chinese protesters |publisher=Reuters |date=2008-04-19 |accessdate=2008-04-19 |language=French] and spread short online messages calling for large protests in front of French consulates and embassy. Some shoppers who insisted on entering one of the Carrefour stores in Kunming were blocked by boycotters wielding large Chinese flags and hit by water bottles. [cite news |url= |title=昆明網友發起反抵制行動 家樂福前:國旗堵門水瓶砸人 | |date=2008-04-17 |accessdate=2008-04-18 |language=Chinese See also: cite news |url= |title=Un drapeau français brûlé devant un magasin Carrefour en Chine |publisher=Reuters |date=2008-04-19 |accessdate=2008-04-19 |language=French See also: cite news |url= |title=Angry Chinese burn French flag outside Carrefour |publisher=Reuters |date=2008-04-18 |accessdate=2008-04-19] Hundreds of people joined anti-French rallies in Beijing, Wuhan, Hefei, Kunming and Qingdao, [ [ "Anti-French rallies across China"] , BBC, April 19, 2008] which quickly spread to other cities like Xian, Harbin and Jinan. [ [ Chinese cities hit by fresh anti-Western protests] , ChannelNewsAsia.]

In response to the demonstrations, the Chinese government attempted to calm the situation. State media and commentaries began to call for calm, such as an editorial in the "People's Daily" which urged Chinese people to "express [their] patriotic enthusiasm calmly and rationally, and express patriotic aspiration in an orderly and legal manner". [ [ "Protests continue; restraint urged"] , "People's Daily", April 21, 2008.] The government also began to patrol and censor the internet forums such as, with comments related to the Carrefour boycott removed [cite web|url= |title=Chinese organize boycott of French goods |publisher="Washington Times", Chris O'Brien |date=2008-04-15 |accessdate=2008-04-19 ] . In the days prior to the planned boycott, evidence of efforts by Chinese authorities to choke the mass boycott's efforts online became even more evident, including barring searches of words related to the French protests, but protests broke out nonetheless in front of Carrefour's stores at Beijing, Changsha, Fuzhou and Shenyang on 1 May. [ [ Fresh protests staged at Carrefour stores in China] , ChannelNewsAsia.] The French authorities also attempted to secure good relations with China in response to the incidents. French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote a letter of support and sympathy to Jin Jing, a Chinese athlete who had carried the Olympic torch in Paris; the letter was delivered in person by the President of the French Senate, Christian Poncelet. [ [ "«Chère mademoiselle Jin Jing, je voudrais vous dire toute mon émotion...»"] , "Libération", April 28, 2008] [ [ "Sarkozy invite Jin Jing, malmenée lors du passage de la flamme"] , "L'Express", April 21, 2008] [ [,11-0,32-1036416@1-10002,0.html "La lettre de M. Sarkozy à l'athlète Jin Jing vise à apaiser la colère chinoise"] , "Le Monde", April 21, 2008] The Chinese State media agency Xinhua reported that Jin had received the letter by saying she "hope [d] to contribute her own efforts to cementing the Sino-France friendship". [ [ "French Senate President conveys Sarkozy's sympathy note to Chinese torch bearer"] , Xinhua, April 21, 2008] Chinese President Hu Jintao sent a special envoy to France to help strengthen relations [ [ "La porte-parole du ministère des AE appelle aux efforts conjoints de la Chine et de la France pour promouvoir les relations bilatérales"] , "The People's Daily", April 23, 2008] and declared that "China was attached to a policy of Franco-Chinese friendship". [ [ "Hu Jintao : la Chine apprécie les relations avec la France et ne souhaite pas voir des événements heurter les sentiments des Chinois"] , Xinhua, April 25, 2008] Interviewed on French television, the Chinese ambassador to France re-iterated that China and France were "friends". [ [ Interview of Kong Quan] on France 2, April 27, 2008]

According to survey from, nearly 90% of Chinese surveyee claim that Sarkozy is not welcomed at Beijing Olympics. [,21985,23957742-5005961,00.html]



The China Quarterly (2002), 169: 33-44 Cambridge University PressCopyright © The China Quarterly, 2002doi:10.1017/S0009443902000049Published online by Cambridge University Press 25Apr2002

External links

* Foreign relations of China
* China Policy Institute
* Foreign relations of imperial China
* Foreign relations of the Republic of China (from 1911...)
** Foreign relations of the People's Republic of China (after 1949)
** Foreign relations of the Republic of China ( today)
* Anglo-Chinese relations

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