Chinese President Xi Jinping (center), his wife Peng Liyuan (right) and Junior Minister for War Veterans Kader Arif arrive to lay a wreath of flowers at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Paris on March 27. Deal-making and commemorations of a half-century of French diplomatic ties with Communist China were the order of business during Xi's three-day visit, part of his European tour. (AFP)
PARIS — Chinese president Xi Jinping paid his respects at the tomb of the unknown soldier at the Arc de Triomphe national monument on Thursday, as the leader of the world’s second largest economy began the second day of a three-day state visit.
A military band played the “Marseillaise” and “March of the Volunteers” national anthems as Kader Arif, French minister for veterans, received the Chinese leader.
Xi laid a wreath, signed the visitors’ book and when he left the ceremony, waved from the car at young Chinese spectators holding French and Chinese flags.
French leaders hope the visit will help boost business ties with China, while Beijing sees Paris as an “acceptable friend” in international political crises such as Syria and Ukraine, website latribune.fr reported.
China’s abstaining from a US motion in the UN against Russia because of the Ukraine crisis was a distancing by Beijing from its ally Moscow, latribune said.
Western nations are banned from selling arms to China but France eagerly seeks commercial contracts. President François Hollande said March 26 he wishes to see a re-balancing of trade relations with the Asian nation, Agence France-Presse reported.
The state visit has boosted business for Airbus, with announcements of a commitment for 70 airliners, comprising 43 narrow-body A320s and 27 wide-body A330s. Chinese authorities had previously ordered the A330s but suspended the deal in retaliation against a European plan to tax airlines on carbon dioxide emissions in an anti-pollution effort.
China will also extend for 10 years the local assembly of A320s at the Tianjin plant, while the Airbus Helicopter unit received a pledge for 1,000 of the EC175s built in a Chinese joint venture with the AVIC company.
Hollande said 50 agreements, worth a total €18 billion (US $24.8 billion), had been signed on the first day of the visit.
France was Xi Jinping’s first trip to Europe since he rose to the top job of the Chinese Communist party a year ago. ■