Coffee House

François Hollande’s great haul of China

27 April 2013

12:41 PM

27 April 2013

12:41 PM

François Hollande has just completed his visit to China. The two great socialist nations more or less embraced: ‘I look forward to… working with you to make our relationship closer, healthier and more vibrant,’ said Chinese president Xi Jinping.

‘When China and France agree on a position, we can drive the world,’ Hollande cooed back. Both countries agreed they wanted a ‘multipolar world’ rather than a ‘superpower’ one — meaning they’re not comfortable with America’s dominant position.


While the French president’s two-day tour of Beijing and Shanghai was probably hectic, it must have been positively Elysian compared to the troubles he’s facing back home, where ministerial scandals abound and unemployment is at its highest ever. Hollande will also be glad he’s returning to Paris with no less than 18 business deals with Beijing, including contracts for 60 Airbuses and a nuclear project. (Mind you, France is starting from a low base, accounting for just 1.3 percent of foreign trade with China, and a trade deficit of 26 billion euros with the Asian nation.)

We’re all used to political leaders embarking on foreign visits that are actually sales trips, but Hollande’s has quite a surreal quality. Having demoralised businesses back home with a slew of crippling taxes, he’s now compelled to frantically do business abroad. Committed to keeping France’s huge social security apparatus in the manner to which it’s been accustomed, he’s prepared to notch up deals with a country where workers’ rights are minimal. Welfare ends at home.

The other thing to note is Beijing’s invitation to Hollande, as some papers have pointed out, is a snub to David Cameron, who had himself hoped to be the first Western leader to be welcomed by China’s new president. Cameron is being punished for having met with the Dalai Lama in London last year, the papers say. And indeed he is, in keeping with China’s apparent policy of exploiting the rivalries between Western nations.

But why should Britain care? Whatever you may feel about the Tibetan leader-in-exile, surely it’s the prime minister’s prerogative who he wants to visit. Of course it’s great to chalk up business deals with the world’s rising (multipolar) superpower, but at what price? Is Britain to worry whether every move it makes will upset Beijing? Anyhow, it’s not only Western countries that need to do business — China does too. Always best not to look too desperate, especially at the start of a relationship.

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Show comments
  • Abhay

    This author must be in a desperate search of topics to write on…and came up with this bundle of nonsense. A visit of Hollande to China is not a ‘revolution’ in international relations and trade. Things don’t work like that.

    And China and France are not similar polities or societies even if a French socialist has won because Hollande is not a socialist of Maoist kind.

    Further, China itself is not Maoist – communist anymore. Its a political dictatorship with a mix of capitalist – state ownership features.

    What is the point of this article?

  • Brindian

    Tell me:
    If the Spectataor makes a big show of not caring if factories producing pretty clothes for the UK market collapse crushing to death hundreds of Bangladeshi workers, what reason has it to make a fuss about Tibet?

    • Jabez Foodbotham

      I suppose because Bangladesh is an unimportant country and no one elsewhere really cares much about what goes one there. But China is a very important country and what it gets up to is of wider interest.

  • UlyssesReturns

    When China starts buying Renaults and Citroens instead of Jaguars and Bentleys, then we should worry, which will be never. France has very little that China wants other than fine wines and tourism. The majority of Chinese under and post graduate students choose the UK and the USA and we are seen as a major partner for now and the future. This little embrace of France is standard Sino divide and rule politics and is of no consequence. Only a madman would invest in France and the current Chinese politicans and business leaders are far from insane.

    • Russell

      Has anyone ever heard a chinaman speak French?. English thankfully is still the widest spoken language in the world(apart from Mandarin obviously, which is not spoken much outside of China).

      • Taishanese

        When the ancient Romans conquered the then known world, Greek was their universal language. Latin wasn’t spread until the spread of the Christian church.

        So, as China rises to parity with the US (and even surpass it), the international language will still be English.

        • Ben

          Agreed. It is far easier for a Chinese speaker to learn English, than for a Western speaker to learn Mandarin. I even hear the Chinese myself admit this (and I am Chinese)

          • Taishanese

            Yes, I agree. Not only that, but the Chinese are far more willing to make English a national priority in their educational system than the rest of the world is willing to learn Mandarin.

            China’s success is not to duplicate or to compete with the existing global economic establishment, but rather to become part of it. And learning English, which is the existing international language, is one of her many efforts to becoming part of this global economic establishment. And in the process of all her efforts to become part of the global system, she is inadvertently heading towards becoming the largest economy in the world. And by many estimates, by a wide margin.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Yes, the Chicom warlords know all the frog wants is to be stroked and postured as a player.

      The Chicoms need to keep Boeing honest, or Boeing will rob them blind.

      So it’s a nice little arrangement.

    • greggf

      Actually Ulysses, China buys TGV Rail Technology, Airbus and PWR nuclear technology from France, which sort of puts Britain’s exports into perspective…

      • UlyssesReturns

        Allow me a little hyperbole. France exports goods to China but in the round we are a much more important business partner.
        UK exports to China in 2011 were £13.78 billion (including goods, services and other income e.g. remittances), up 17.6% on 2010. (Source: Office for National Statistics UK)
        UK exported goods to China in 2011 were £8.77 billion. This is up by 21.4% from the previous year. (Source: HMRC)
        UK exports of service in 2011 were £3.2 billion, up by 19.5% from the previous year. China is the 14th market for UK service exports, 4 places up from the previous year. UK exports of goods and services in 2011 were £12.5 billion, up by 21.3% from the previous year. (Source: Office for National Statistics UK)
        From January to May 2012 the UK exported £3.98 billion worth of goods to China. This is up by 21% from the same period in 2011. Since January 2012, China has risen from 9th place to 7th place in the UK’s most important export markets by value (overtaking Italy and Spain). Imports, on the other hand, were up 5% at £11.70 billion, which was one down from 5th to 4th place. This, however, suggests a re-balancing of trade relationship may be beginning to take place. (Source: HMRC)
        The value of UK goods exports to China from January to May of 2012 ranked 3rd among EU countries, after Germany and France. This is one place up from the same period last year (as we have overtaken Italy). (Source: MOFCOM)
        At the end of 2011, UK was the largest EU investor to China, with a cumulated actual direct investment value of £11.70 billion. UK’s direct investment to China from January to May 2012 was £282 million, the second largest EU investor to China after Germany. (Source: MOFCOM)
        In 2010, Chinese investment stock in the UK was £28.8bn. (Source: Office for National Statistics UK)
        At the end of 2010, direct investment from China to the UK in stock, was £852 million, ranking 4th among the EU after Luxemburg, Sweden and Germany. Figures for 2011 yet to be released. (Source: 2010 Statistical Bulletin of China’s Outward Foreign Direct Investment, jointly published by MOFCOM, NBS and SAFE)
        At the end of May 2012, there were 8 Chinese companies on the London Stock Exchange main market, and 45 companies listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM). (Source: London Stock Exchange)

        • greggf

          “Allow me a little hyperbole.”

          Yes Ulysses, I got that bit.

        • huktra

          Instructive to read the US report on human rights in China:

          Repression and coercion, particularly against organizations and individuals involved in rights advocacy and public interest issues, were routine.
          Individuals and groups seen as politically sensitive by authorities continued to face tight restrictions on their freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel. Efforts to silence and intimidate political activists and public interest lawyers continued to increase. Authorities resorted to extralegal measures such as enforced disappearance, “soft detention,” and strict house
          arrest, including house arrest of family members, to prevent the public voicing of independent opinions. Public interest law firms that took on sensitive cases continued to face harassment, disbarment of legal staff, and closure. There was severe official repression of the freedoms of speech, religion, association, and harsh restrictions on the movement of ethnic Uighurs in the Xinjiang Uighur
          Autonomous Region (XUAR) and of ethnic Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and other Tibetan areas.

          • bridgebuilder78

            Uighurs? Are you insane? You mean those Islamic militants?

            • telemachus

              I suppose you support the rapid dispatch and family pay for the bullet management of these folk

              • bridgebuilder78

                And I don’t suppose that you support granting them asylum and putting them up in a council house, only to have them bomb the London Marathon?

        • Fat Bloke on Tour

          UR … Having a laugh.

          The UK is a one club golfer.

          All the stats you spout are down to one company – JLR.
          Owned by Indians, run by Germans, living of its US bounty.

          And what happens in 2015 – they start local production.
          Consequently you are spouting PIT tripe.

      • Airey Belvoir

        Don’t we benefit substantially from Airbus sales? Wings, engines, that sort of thing?

        • greggf

          That’s true Airey, the Airbus project is shared among EU partners.
          China will see EADS and the Toulouse factory as the source of the finished Aircraft.

          • HookesLaw

            Shared amongst the Airbus consortium.
            Aérospatiale and Deutsche Airbus have 37.9% each, CASA (Spain) have 4.2% and BAe 20%.

            Then there is Rolls Royce part of a consortium for engines.

        • Colin

          Great name, btw.

      • Curnonsky

        The technology they buy from these companies is likely a small fraction of what they steal from them.

        • greggf

          That’s so true Curnon. I recall Westinghouse in the US saying the same about Framatome about their PWR nuclear technology in the 1970s!

    • Bert3000

      They buy plenty of Citroens. And our government is desperately trying to discourage Chinese visitors to Britain, by staying out of the Schengen system, which means we lose out on the money spent by Chinese tourists.

      Britain has been left far far behind in its relationship with China.

      • UlyssesReturns

        Utter bollocks. There is no shortage of Chinese tourists, students and businessmen to Britain as anyone with half a brain can see. Schengen has sod all to do with this you Europhile numpty.

        • Count Dooku

          Actually I agree with Bert on this one, Shengen is a massive turn off for tourists.
          It might be worth allowing visitors from mid income countries like China, Russia and Brazil the right to visit the UK if they hold another EU visa.
          Poorer countries like India should be excluded from such a scheme.

          • Ben

            As a Chinese national myself studying law at one of the top universities in London, (and having lived in Britain for the last 8 years, and also being raised bilingually in English and Mandarin), I can tell you that Britain’s not being part of Schengen IS a massive turn-off to most Chinese tourists. The troublesome visa system for Chinese students is also a GIGANTIC turn-off; most Chinese students (who meet the grades and can afford it) would now much rather head to the US for college education.

            • UlyssesReturns

              China is the largest non-EU sending country to UK universities and numbers have increased according to UKCISA:

              2010-2011: 67,325
              2011-2012: 78,715

              So this off-putting onerous visa system is discouraging whom exactly? I am looking at opening a business in China and let me tell you, it’s a lot harder to do that and get visas for my people than opening a business here or in Singapore.

    • bridgebuilder78

      “When China starts buying Renaults and Citroens instead of Jaguars and Bentleys…”

      Neither Jaguar nor Bentley is owned by the British. Most of the profits go to zee Germans and the Indians.

  • huktra

    In truth Hollande needs some allies against Marine Le Pen

  • telemachus

    We should laud Hollande who maintains a reasonable society an economy with a better GDP than ours while keeping at the heart of Europe
    When the current local difficulties with the Eurozone are over we will envy them

    • Colonel Mustard

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!


    • El_Sid

      Hmmm :

      “An excellent illustration of the competitiveness gap is the chasm between German and French exports to China. Germany sends $70 billion in cars, machine tools and other products to China each year, seven times the figure for France….

      In France, 42 euros for every 100 euros in total expenses go to social charges, versus 34 euros in Germany, 26 in the UK, and 20 in the US….Since 2005, France’s unit labor costs — the expense of producing a single car or steel beam, for example — has jumped 17% compared with 10% for Germany, 5.8% for Spain, and 2% for Ireland. Today, French workers earn an average of 35.3 euros per hour, compared with 25.8 in Italy, and 22 in the UK and Spain. The result is a steep fall in French manufacturing and the services that support it, everything from consulting to logistics. Corporate profits have plunged to 6.5% of GDP, about 60% of the euro zone average. That’s because French exporters are losing market share, and the ones that survive must lower margins to charge competitive prices. As a result, they lack the funds to invest in new plants and technologies….

      In 2012, the French economy expanded at just 0.2%, and its real growth rate for the past three years averaged 1.2%, less than half Germany’s 2.7% performance….from 2004 to 2012, the private sector in France showed no growth whatsoever, adjusted for inflation. The entire rise in GDP, a mere 7.3% over eight years, came from government spending”

      • telemachus

        In 2012, the French economy expanded at just 0.2%, and its real growth rate for the past three years averaged 1.2%
        They could give Osborne some lessons

        • Wessex Man

          Only how to increase the length of the dole queues.

      • Fat Bloke on Tour


        Never trust an American talking about the French.
        Kitchen sink number telling us nothing.

        The analysis is crap.
        The figures are forced, partial and slanted.

        On the subject of France vs Germany.
        The car industry tells a huge story.

        VW bet the farm on China 10/15 years ago — you know when Germany was the US right wing cliche of a bloated, benefits driven EU basket case.

        Merc and BM followed them in and are now selling for fun.
        Add in the production engineering side flogging the stuff to make the stuff.

        You can set this against PSA who are currently flogging a dead horse.
        Their design and development model which made bean counters everywhere swoon has been run into the ground.

        • Fat Bloke on Tour

          Renault are currently struggling because the low pound has lost them “Treasure Island Mk2”.
          Add in a parochial management that focus’s it energy at everything but the main brand and you have stagnation and decay.

          In 2000 Renault had a choice – Nissan vs China.
          They choose to put their money and time into Nissan.

          They then sat back and felt fat and happy.
          Nissan was supposed to do China — and the island arguments turned up.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Never trust a Fat Bloke on Tour who always thinks he knows better.

  • HookesLaw

    France is a socialist nation? Hardly. What percent vote socialist in the first round of the last parliamentary election?

    Airbus is good news for Rolls Royce and BAe

    • Colonel Mustard

      Socialists do that. Even with a minority they think they represent everyone – or should. It’s their single party state syndrome, Blair’s “the Labour party is nothing less than the political wing of the British people as a whole” and now Milibandwagon’s “one nation” tripe.

      I read a comment at the Guardian the other day, written in all seriousness by some lefty goon:-

      “To be right wing is shameful and wrong.”

      That’s where we are headed with Labour and the Great British Socialist Collective.

      • greggf

        “To be right wing is shameful and wrong.”

        Populism is the new racism.

      • telemachus

        Socialists do that. Even with a minority they think they represent everyone – or should.
        They certainly should
        The tenets of reasonableness are that we should not live by maximising the take from pour fellow man which seems to be the philosophy of the Coaltion
        How on earth the party of Ashdown allows this goodness knows

        • Wessex Man

          so whats wrong with them pouring the tea for heavens sake!

        • HookesLaw

          Upset that the libdems are not droopy little socialist lapdogs are we? Dedums.
          Blair and labour shafted Ashdown and the Libdems in 1997.

      • HookesLaw

        Vote Conservative then!