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Beijing warns Sarkozy against Dalai Lama meeting

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-12-06

China's foreign ministry has said that French President Nicolas Sarkozy's scheduled meeting with the Dalai Lama in Poland on Saturday threatens multi-billion-dollar trade ties between the countries.

 
China warned on Thursday that multi-billion-dollar trade ties with France could be affected by President Nicolas Sarkozy's planned meeting with the Dalai Lama.
  
"We attach great importance to our strategic partnership with France, as well as our business relations with France. These two points are closely related," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters.
  
"Only under the condition of good bilateral relations can we create a sound atmosphere for our business relations."
  
Liu was responding to a question about the potential impact on trade of Sarkozy's planned meeting with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
  
Sarkozy is set to meet the Dalai Lama in Poland on Saturday, despite repeated calls by Beijing to scrap the encounter.
  
Liu again urged Sarkozy to take steps to "repair" ties, presumably by cancelling the meeting, or risk long-term harm to bilateral relations.
  
"France should really work hard to change this situation, which will determine the development of our bilateral relations," Liu said.
  
Beijing objects to foreign leaders meeting with the Dalai Lama, who it maintains is trying to win independence for his Himalayan homeland, which has been under Chinese rule since 1951.
  
The Dalai Lama insists he only wants greater autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule, and not independence.
  
China has already retaliated by cancelling an EU-China summit that was set for this week. France currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
  
China also postponed talks on finalising a deal for 150 Airbus passenger planes, a spokesman for the European aircraft maker said last week, but Liu's comments raised the prospect of more serious economic fallout.
  
Trade between China and France was worth 33.66 billion dollars last year, up 33.6 percent from 2006, according to Chinese commerce ministry figures.
  
Among the high-profile French business interests in China are nuclear firm Areva, flagship car manufacturer PSA Peugeot Citroen, retail chain Carrefour and engineering company Alstom.
  
Liu warned that the Tibet row had stirred resentment among Chinese consumers, who earlier this year staged anti-France protests and boycotts of French goods in a previous uproar over Tibet.
  
"Due to the French side's erroneous position, the Chinese people are quite discontent," he said, adding: "We hope the Chinese public will remain calm toward China-France relations."
  
Internet forums, often the only form of public expression for Chinese, have filled recently with anti-French comments.
  
A forum on government-run China.com posted a petition condemning Sarkozy that drew more than 82,000 online signatures earlier in the week, while blogs have called for boycotts of French goods.
  
Chinese protesters had earlier this year targeted French businesses such as Carrefour.
  
Those actions came after Sarkozy linked his attendance at the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony on progress in talks between Beijing and the Dalai Lama's envoys on the future of Tibet.
  
There was also anger in China about protests over a Chinese military crackdown on unrest in Tibet that disrupted the international Olympic torch relay in Paris and several other cities.
  

Date created : 2008-12-04

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