|This article is outdated. (February 2010)|
Note that the meaning of both "China" and "France" as entities has changed throughout history; this article will discuss what was commonly considered 'France' and 'China' at the time of the relationships in question. There have been many political, cultural and economic relationships between China and France.
17th and 18th centuries
Numerous French Jesuits were active in China during the 17th and 18th centuries: Nicolas Trigault (1577–1629), Alexander de Rhodes (1591–1660, active in Vietnam), Jean-Baptiste Régis (1663–1738), Jean Denis Attiret (1702–1768), Michel Benoist (1715–1774), Joseph-Marie Amiot (1718–1793).
French Jesuits pressured the French king to send them to China with the aims of counterbalancing the influence of Ottoman Empire in Europe. The Jesuits sent by Louis XIV were: Jean de Fontaney (1643–1710), Joachim Bouvet (1656-1730), Jean-François Gerbillon (1654–1707), Louis Le Comte (1655–1728) and Claude de Visdelou (1656–1737). Returning to France, they noticed the similarity between Louis XIV of France and the Emperor Kangxi. Both were said to be the God servitor, and to control their respective area: France being the strongest country of Europe, and China being the strongest power in East Asia. Other biographical factors lead commentators to proclaim that Louis XIV and Kangxi were protected by the same Angel. (In childhood, they overcame the same illness; both reigned for a long time, with many conquests.)
Under Louis XIV's reign, the work of these French researchers sent by the King had a notable influence on Chinese sciences, but continued to be mere intellectual games, and not tools to improve the power of man on nature. Conversely, China was fashionable in France, exemplified by the Chinoiserie fashion, and Louis XIV had the Trianon de Porcelaine built in Chinese style in 1670.
In the same time, the first ever known Chinese people came to the French Kingdom. Michel Sin went to Versaille in 1684 before continuing to England. More notable is Arcadio Huang, who crossed the Kingdom in 1702, spent some time in Rome (for the Rites dispute), and came back to Paris in 1704, where he was the "Chinese interprete of the King", and died in 1716. He started the first ever Chinese-French dictionary, and a Chinese grammar to help French and European researchers to understand and study Chinese, but died before finishing his work.
In the 18th century, the French Jesuit Michel Benoist, together with Giuseppe Castiglione, helped the Qianlong Emperor build a European-style area in Old Summer Palace (often associated with the European-style palaces (Xi Yang Lou) built of stone), to satisfy his taste for exotic buildings and objects. Jean Denis Attiret became "Painter to the Emperor" Qianlong. Joseph-Marie Amiot (1718–1793) also won the confidence of the Qianlong Emperor and spent the remainder of his life at Beijing. He was official translator of Western languages for Emperor Qianlong, and the spiritual leader of the French mission in Peking.
From the (if rather distant) cordiality of the ancien régime, the relations between Qing and France would deteriorate in European rush for colonies, even as they matured. Nineteenth-century Europe was eager for the acquisition of colonies, and as European opinion of China deteriorated, the once admired empire would become the subject of unequal treaties and colonisation. In 1844, China and France concluded its first modern treaty, the Treaty of Whampoa, which demanded for France the same privileges extended to Britain. In 1860, the Summer Palace was ransacked by French units. Many precious objects now in French museums come from this looting. Later, France would seize Guangzhouwan as a treaty port, and take its own concession in the treaty port of Shanghai.
- French Indochina era
- Second Opium War,
- Sino-French War, and French Indochina,
- Eight-Nation Alliance
- French post offices in China
- Yunnan–Vietnam Railway
After Xinhai Revolution
French Third Republic recognized the establishment of the Republic of China and founded the diplomatic relations on 7 October 1913. Both France and China fought for Allied powers of World War II against Axis powers.
Cold War relations
Even though Chinese Civil War was ceased and the new communist-led People's Republic of China was established on 1 October 1949, French Fourth Republic government did not recognize the PRC. Instead, France maintained the relation with the Republic of China on Taiwan. However, France and China had re-established ambassadorial level diplomatic relations by 1964. This was precipitated by Charles de Gaulle's official recognition of the People's Republic of China. Before Civil War, Deng Xiaoping completed his studies in Paris prior to ascending to power in China.
This state of relations would not last, however. During the 1990s, France and the PRC repeatedly clashed as a result of the PRC's One China Policy. France sold weapons to Taiwan, angering the Beijing government. This resulted in the temporary closure of the French Consulate-General in Guangzhou. France eventually agreed to prohibit local companies from selling arms to Taiwan, and diplomatic relations resumed in 1994.
Since then, the two countries have exchanged a number of state visits. Today, Sino-French relations are primarily economic. Bilateral trade reached new high levels in 2000. Cultural ties between the two countries are less well represented, though France is making an effort to improve this disparity.
In 2008, Sino-French relations took a downturn in the wake of the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay. As torchbearers passed through Paris, activists claiming allegiance to Tibetan independence and human rights repeatedly attempted to disrupt, hinder or halt the procession. The Chinese government hinted that Sino-French friendship could be affected. Chinese protesters organized boycotts of the French-owned retail chain Carrefour in major Chinese cities including Kunming, Hefei and Wuhan, and hundreds of people joined anti-French rallies in those cities and Beijing. Both governments attempted to calm relations after the demonstrations. French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote a letter of support and sympathy to Jin Jing, a Chinese athlete who had carried the Olympic torch. Chinese President Hu Jintao sent a special envoy to France to help strengthen relations.
However, relations again soured after President Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama in Poland. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao omitted France in his tour of Europe in response, his assistant foreign minister saying of the rift "The one who tied the knot should be the one who unties it." French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin was quoted in Le Monde as saying that France had no intention of "encourag[ing] Tibetan separatism".
- Foreign relations of China
- China Policy Institute
- Anglo-Chinese relations
- Eastern Magnificence and European Ingenuity: Clocks of Late Imperial China - p. 182 by Catherine Pagani (2001) 
- Alain Peyrefitte, "Images de l'Empire Immobile", p. 113
- "China condemns Olympic torch disruptions", France 24, April 8, 2008
- "Raidissement des relations sino-françaises", Radio France Internationale, April 15, 2008
- "National flag of France with Hakenkreuz added by Chinese protesters" (in French). Reuters. 2008-04-19. Retrieved 2008-04-19.
- "Anti-French rallies across China", BBC, April 19, 2008
- "«Chère mademoiselle Jin Jing, je voudrais vous dire toute mon émotion...»", Libération, April 28, 2008
- "La porte-parole du ministère des AE appelle aux efforts conjoints de la Chine et de la France pour promouvoir les relations bilatérales", The People's Daily, April 23, 2008
- "China ready to mend ties if France moves first", AFP, january 22, 2009
- "'Encore du travail' pour des retrouvailles entre Pékin et Paris (Raffarin)", Le Monde, February 10, 2009
- France/China: intercultural imaginings by Alex Hughes (2007)