China: too large to mess with
France made an about-turn when it decided to woo China. The reason? Business deals!
After a long time I actually felt my politics and economics degree was worth something when I heard that the infamous Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, actually went to the airport to receive – with full military honours – his Chinese counterpart President Hu Jintao, who arrived in Paris on for a ‘state visit’ on Thursday.
Even the controversial Sarkozy had to stoop to saying: "China should not be seen as a risk but an opportunity," ahead of Hu’s arrival. Of course this angered human rights activists, who accuse the Chinese government for a whole bunch of violations in the country.
While this is not surprising to us Pakistanis who are used to seeing their heads of state hop around the world without any tangible results emerging and do not really know what a ‘state visit’ is actually supposed to accomplish, things are a little different elsewhere.
Things have not been that good between the two countries. Sarkozy’s decision to visit the Dalai Lama a couple of years back had angered the Chinese government and a diplomatic tussle followed. So what is this ‘state-visit’ all about?
Yes, business deals! By Thursday evening, deals worth 14 billion euros had already been signed between the two countries. These ranged from 100 Airbus aircraft to alliances on nuclear power. Apparently, China is too big to mess with anymore.
And that was just the first day. As this piece is being written, it is being reported that the two top-dogs are heading to the French Riviera for private talks on reforming the global monetary system. Of course, more meetings with business leaders are scheduled before the guest leaves for Portugal on Sunday – where more red-carpet treatment probably awaits him.
“Fearful of losing big business in China's massive market, Sarkozy has since softened his tone,” says the Associated Press. They are probably right since no joint press conferences have been scheduled during the three-day visit, which observers say is a move to avoid any embarrassments to the Chinese presidents on issues like freedom of press, political oppression and obviously: Tibet.
So it seems politics and economics do seem to be intricately tied in the real word after all. I guess it should not come as a surprise to many then that President Hu Jintao has topped the Forbes list of most powerful people this year, snatching the position from Barack Obama.