FRANCE and China have been getting on with business on the first full day of Premier Xi Jinping’s three-day State visit.
Trade deals are at the heart of the visit, which will culminate in Paris with a concert at the Versailles palace to celebrate 50 years of full diplomatic ties between the two nations, which were established by Charles de Gaulle and Mao Tse-Tung.
Mr Xi and his wife, the singer Peng Liyuan, arrived in Lyon yesterday evening on the second leg of his first official European tour, but the delegation wasted little time before starting work.
Already, Airbus has agreed an €5.8bn deal with Chinese aerospace giant AVIC to produce 1,000 civil transport helicopters.
In total, some 80 agreements are expected to be signed.
Details of other deals have remained closely guarded secrets. Later today, however, Chinese firm Dongfeng take a stake in troubled French auto giant Peugeot in a landmark deal signed at the Élysée Palace, while nuclear power operator Areva is also hopeful of signing a major accord.
Last night in Lyon, Europe’s ancient silk capital, Mr Xi talked about building a new “Silk Road” between the two nations.
Writing in Le Figaro before his visit, Mr Xi said the visit “will be an opportunity for me, firstly, to take stock of the past and celebrate the friendship between our two countries; on the other hand, to build the future and to access our relations to a new level.”
Mr Xi landed in the Netherlands on Friday, and is set to also visit Germany, Belgium and the seat of the EU in Brussels.
Following a gala dinner in Lyon last night, Mr Xi was today scheduled to visit the BioMerieux Marcy l'Etoile research centre and the Franco-Chinese Institute.
He was then due to head to Paris, where President Francois Hollande has rolled out the red carpet, with a State dinner this evening and the celebratory concert tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Mrs Peng will be named special UNESCO envoy for the promotion of women's education during the three-day trip.
But not everyone is pleased about the visit. Mr Xi was greeted with a small denouncing Beijing’s stance on Tibet, Taiwan and human rights. Further protests are expected in Paris.