Car in De Gaulle assassination attempt on show in China

28th January 2014, Comments 0 comments

The bullet-sprayed car in which Charles de Gaulle escaped assassination, as portrayed in "The Day of the Jackal", went on show in Beijing Tuesday in an exhibition marking 50 years of Chinese-French ties.

The black Citroen DS 19 sped De Gaulle and his wife to safety in 1962 despite taking around 20 shots from opponents of Algerian independence, a scene recreated in Frederick Forsyth's 1971 thriller and the subsequent film.

Less than 18 months later De Gaulle broke ranks with the United States to establish full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, as part of an effort to forge a "middle" role for France in a Cold War dominated by the US and Soviet Union.

De Gaulle commands admiration in China as both a strong leader and for the diplomatic move, which helped Mao Zedong's government gain global recognition.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said last week that it "had a profound impact on the evolution of international relations", and the display at the National Museum in Beijing is part of a series of events in both countries marking Monday's anniversary.

"What an awesome car, and an awesome driver!" said a 22-year-old student surnamed Chen.

Last month Citroen unveiled a new DS model which will be sold in China, the world's largest auto market. Its parent firm PSA Peugeot Citroen is in talks with Chinese giant Dongfeng about a shareholder tie-up that would provide a much-needed cash injection.

"Amazing things happen to great people," said an unrelated 72-year-old retiree also surnamed Chen.

He added that De Gaulle, like Mao, "in their moments in history made contributions for their people and their countries".

But historical images of politically sensitive figures were omitted from the exhibition at the request of the Chinese, said David Valence, deputy director of the Charles De Gaulle Foundation which organised it.

There were "requests from our Chinese friends", he said, which were complied with as they were "not very essential parts of the exhibition".

They included Hua Guofeng, Mao's chosen successor who was sidelined by Deng Xiaoping, and leader Zhao Ziyang, who was disgraced after supporting students in the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests, which were later quashed.

Wu Jianmin, a former Chinese ambassador to Paris, told AFP: "General De Gaulle was the first Western head of state to see, to predict the rise of China."

"This car represents the courage of the general. His decisions were truly of great significance, and for decisions of this type there is a price," Wu said.

© 2014 AFP

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