Why Guangzhou? Understanding Macron's Visit to South China

By Billy Jiang, April 7, 2023

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French President Emmanuel Macron is coming to the end a three-day state visit to China. The visit, which began on April 5, will include a stop in Guangzhou, provincial capital of Guangdong, where Macron will visit Sun Yat-Sen University and meet with students.

This marks Macron's third visit to China since becoming President, and his first visit to Guangzhou. On his previous two trips, he visited Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai.

The announcement of Macron's visit to Guangzhou has sparked interest, as the city has a unique historical connection with France that dates back over 300 years.

In 1698, a French ship named Amphitrite made the first direct voyage from La Rochelle in southwestern France to Guangzhou, carrying porcelain, silk, and other Chinese products back to France.

The arrival of the ship marked the beginning of a fruitful trade relationship between China and France, one that eventually led to the establishment of the first French consulate in Guangzhou in 1777.

Over the years, the relationship between Guangzhou and France has grown stronger. French companies such as Babolat, GL Events, and Mérieux NutriSciences have set up operations in Guangzhou, and Guangzhou-based EHang Intelligent Technology has been selected to participate in a Parisian urban air mobility project. 

Educational partnerships between Sun Yat-Sen University and Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University, and the establishment of the Nuclear Engineering Department of Sun Yat-sen University (IFCEN) with the support of French power company EDF, have further strengthened ties between the two countries.

Cultural exchange has also been an important aspect of the relationship. The famous 'Flower Fair' of Guangzhou once extended all the way to Paris, as flowers were used as a means of communication and exchange between the two cities.

The significance of Macron's visit to Guangzhou cannot be underestimated, as it highlights the historical and cultural ties between China and France that have developed over the centuries. This visit is an opportunity for the two countries to strengthen their economic and cultural ties and foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other's histories and cultures.

[Cover image courtesy of the French Embassy in China]

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