BEIJING - In China to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations, a top French official called Monday for Beijing to consider his country as a land of industry rather than romance.
Economic ties have lagged behind the political partnership and China must recognize France's business prowess, said National Assembly speaker Claude Bartolone, ahead of a banquet at the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square.
"France must exist economically in China as much as it does politically," he said, lamenting the "significant gap" between their "solid" diplomatic ties and their trade imbalance.
France runs a $36 billion trade deficit with China, according to Chinese customs figures, and accounts for just 1.3% of Chinese foreign trade compared with 5% for Germany.
"We would like this anniversary to allow talk of the future and to let our Chinese friends understand that France is also a France of civil nuclear energy, of agribusiness, of the pharmaceutical industry," Bartolone said.
At the banquet, his counterpart as leader of China's Communist-controlled rubberstamp legislature Zhang Dejiang said: "The traditional friendship built by our leaders is as high as the Alps and will last like the waters of the Yangtze, which flows forever."
While welcoming Bartolone last week, China's President Xi Jinping said France's decision in 1964 to establish ties with Mao Zedong's government "had a profound impact on the evolution of international relations."
France under then-president Charles de Gaulle broke ranks with the United States in the surprise move, which paved the way for China to gain global recognition.
The Global Times, a nationalistic newspaper close to the ruling Communist Party, also called for a refresh on relations Monday, but hinted that France should pay China increased respect.
Paris could become a leading Western country in its relations with Beijing if it "can break free from the bondage of prevalent prejudice the Western world maintains toward China," it said in an editorial.
"The 'gene of Charles de Gaulle,' which refers to the foresight to set up a platform between China and Europe, seems nowhere to be found among the majority of the French people," it added.
Bartolone was asked about the sentencing a day earlier of prominent activist Xu Zhiyong -- a move that elicited immediate criticism from the United States and overseas rights groups.
He said he had raised the issue of human rights with Zhang.
"When they talk about the Chinese Dream and look at the medium and long term, you can see very well that this issue is totally integrated into it," he said, referring to a political slogan championed by Xi.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014