Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Parliamentarians in Beijing

“We hope the French can attach great importance to the core concerns of China“, said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu on a routine press conference yesterday. For sure, one can’t accuse Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former French prime minister, of spoiling the atmosphere:

We in France have understood the messages expressed by the Chinese authorities both on the occasion of the report on the European-Chinese summit and the European trip of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, we have taken these messages serious, and we wish to take part in the easing of tensions which have arisen in our bilateral relations.

I need to start writing footnotes already. The above quote comes from le responsable of the French delegation which is now in Beijing and led by Raffarin. Le responsable is probably Raffarin himself – if not, it’s his chief adjutant on his trip. And another footnote: French is a language differénte from English. No kidding. The easing of tensions reads l’apaisement des tensions in French. It’s easing, isn’t it?

Which leads to the inevitable question: Is president Sarkozy a cheese-eating surrender monkey?

Both Raffarin and Sarkozy are members of the UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire). But Raffarin was arguably closer to Jacques Chirac‘s positions on matters like the US-led invasion of Iraq (strongly opposed to that), or to China’s interpretation of the one-China policy (strongly in favor). During a state visit to China in April 2005, Raffarin supported Beijing’s “anti-secession” law on Taiwan and vowed to keep pushing for an end to an EU arms embargo that could open the door for Paris to sell weapons to Beijing, calling the EU’s trade barrier anachronistic. During his visit then, China Eastern Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines signed a deal with the European consortium Airbus to buy a total of 10 A319/A320 planes, according to Deutsche Welle.

And Raffarin remained a GFotCP (Great Friend of the Chinese People) ever after. In April 2008, he declared that “China has left the dictatorial road”.

There isn’t too much reason to expect that Sarkozy will refrain from meeting the jackal from Dharamsala in the future. If Raffarin is the good cop, Sarkozy, also in April 2008, only didn’t want to see Beijing “under the ban of human kind”. (That’s bad-cop with moderation, I’d say.)

According to Le Figaro, M. Raffarin is not sent by Nicolas Sarkozy. But he can, on the occasion of his visit, pass on some messages.

Chinese netizens eyed the olive branch offered by Paris with cautious optimism as former French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is visiting the country to mend soured bilateral relations. (China Daily)

I’m cautiously optimistic, too. Cautiously optimistic that European leaders will continue to take care of their appointment diaries on their own. But I’m not taking it for granted.

__________________

According to AFP (quoted on adetocqueville.com), Raffarin leads a delegation of French parliamentarians on a private visit. Maybe the timing wouldn’t be ideal for business people at the moment.

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