France's Sarkozy in China for talks with Hu

25th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will pay a lightning visit to Beijing Thursday for talks with his Chinese counterpart likely to be dominated by the euro zone debt crisis and the conflict in Libya.

Sarkozy's brief stopover, on his way to the French territory of New Caledonia, will mark his sixth visit to China -- a fellow UN Security Council permanent member and the world's second-largest economy.

The French president will spend just five hours in Beijing, where he is due to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao at 5:15 pm (0915 GMT) in the Great Hall of the People, before a working dinner.

Sarkozy's office said the president wanted to "compare notes on the priorities of the French leadership on the G20, ahead of the Cannes summit in November, and of course to discuss the sovereign debt crisis."

Chinese leaders have repeatedly expressed their confidence in the eurozone economies during the crisis, and the country has invested an increasing portion of its world-leading foreign exchange reserves in euro-denominated assets.

"Sarkozy is coming here to ask China to buy the government debt of southern European countries," said Jin Cangrong of China's People's University.

"China is buying European debt all the time, it now holds 600 billion euros ($865 billion) worth of European debt."

Europe's sovereign debt crisis has sent stock markets plunging and triggered critical coverage in China's state-run media, which this week compared it to the plague that hit the continent in the 14th century.

"The sovereign debt crisis, like the Black Death in the 14th century, has spread around euro-zone countries, from Greece to Ireland, Portugal, Spain," said a comment piece in the overseas edition of the People's Daily on Monday.

The newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, called for "concrete actions to restore market confidence in eurozone nations and the euro."

The People's University's Jin said that Libya, where Moamer Kadhafi's 42-year rule looks close to an end after six months of fighting, would also be high on the agenda for Sarkozy's visit.

"Sarkozy will try to persuade China to take part in the rebuilding of Libya," he said.

China opposed NATO airstrikes in Libya and initially maintained a policy of non-interference and public neutrality on the conflict in Libya.

After rebels in the war-torn North African country entered the capital Tripoli, Beijing said it "respects the Libyan people's choice".

But it has urged the United Nations -- and not the Western powers that backed the opposition movement -- to lead the reconstruction effort in the oil-rich North African country.

© 2011 AFP

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