Nicholas Sarkozy will be visiting China for four days at the end of April with his blushing bride, Carla Bruni. Although it is possible that nothing of note will happen, it is also possible that something akin to news will come across the transom, and, predictably, be ignored by such foreign-bureau-parched outlets such as the New York Times, a paper that tends to report on EU-China or Sino-French relations about two or three times a year.
Thus! I should like to present for your consideration a quick Q-and-A at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing this past April 22:
Q: Please brief us on French President Sarkozy’s visit to China. What will be discussed during his visit? How do you comment on the current China-France relations considering your discord in the past?
A: President Sarkozy will start his visit from April 28 in Xi’an. He will be in Beijing from April 28 to 29 and attend the opening ceremony of Shanghai Expo on April 30. During his visit, President Hu Jintao, Chairman Wu Bangguo and Premier Wen Jiabao will meet and talk with him. The two sides will have an extensive and in-depth exchange of views on further development of China-France comprehensive strategic partnership as well as international and regional issues of common interest.
At present, the China-France relations have staged a sound momentum of development. The two sides keep frequent exchanges at high level and other levels with active cooperation in various fields. This year, the bilateral relations face significant development opportunities [e.g., €€€€€€€€]. We are willing to work with France and continue to build up political mutual trust, deepen pragmatic cooperation in various fields and strengthen communication and coordination on major international and regional issues so as to promote sound and stable development of bilateral relations.
Sound development, eh? As, in actual sound waves? Why, mon dieu, that’s correct! Because the French have dispatched a cultural ambassador to smooth the way among the Francophile Chinese elites already: via the Alliance Francaise, Jil Caplan, a singer-songwriter, is blasting her way across China on an eight-city tour that will end on, yes!, April 28, the very day Sarko arrives in Xi’an. From the breathy press release:
La voix est tantôt soupirante, tantôt vibrante : Jil Caplan parle avec la même justesse de petites choses simples et des grands dilemmes. Au fil de ses 8 albums, la star a affiné son genre. Et s’est crée un monde à part fait de références cinéphiles et livresques. Jusqu’au pseudonyme clin d’œil au héro de la mort aux trousses d’Alfred Hitchcock. Mais la chanteuse a aussi d’autres cordes à son arc : elle flirte avec l’électro, réalise des films, écrit des articles. En tournée en Chine du 9 au 28 avril l’insaisissable éclectique viendra surprendre son public de toujours. Et se faire, assurément, des nouveaux fans en dix dates, de Chongqing à Nankin en passant par Pékin et Shanghai. Bref, autant de performances et rendez-vous à ne pas manquer.
And, doubly interesting, her opening act is Perdel, a Chinese alt-indie band whose metier can be sampled just briefly in this bootleg from the inepuissable MAO LiveHouse in GuLou district of Beijing:
In addition, fantastic photographer Gilles Sabrie, in Beijing and easily the inheritor of the mantle of Cartier-Bresson of our times in China, will be exhibiting his unparalleled work on the effects of flooding behind the Three Gorges Dam. (See Pour les Pekinois for more details.)
JingDaily covers the nexus of Sino-French luxury goods.
Pierre Haski’s Rue89 “Chinatown” blog has been bursting with good stuff of late, including a vigorous overview of how China “won” the Sino-French dust-up in February 2009, a look at Bob Dylan’s having been censored on the mainland, a brief interview with France’s minister for exports about cultural differences between France and China, and (although the accompanying picture is totally random) an intriguing analysis on the curious Wen Jiabao People’s Daily editorial which Haski titles “The Prime Minister Pours Out His Love for an Old Pariah.”
Recommended resource: Connexions, magazine of French industry and commerce in China.
Eternally recommended book: Simone de Beauvoir, La Longue Marche: Essai Sur la Chine, 1957.
Final fact: Human rights advocacy in France is so powerful, and always has the ability to disturb things in ways that, perhaps, they ought to be disturbed. From the Nordic Asia blog, January 10, 2010:
On January 11th, in Paris, the Simone de Beauvoir prize for Women’s freedom 2010 was awarded to two Chinese women, GUO Jianmei 郭健梅, a lawyer in Beijing and Prof. AI Xiaoming 艾晓明 from Sun Zhongshan University (Canton). The Simone de Beauvoir Prize is an international human rights prize for women’s freedom, awarded since 2008 to individuals or groups fighting for gender equality and opposing breaches of human rights. It is named after the French author and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, known for her 1949 women’s rights treatise The Second Sex (see http://prixsimonedebeauvoir.blogspot.com).
GUO Jianmei is one of the founders of the Women’s Legal Research and Service Centre of the Law School of Peking University (http://www.woman-legalaid.org.cn). It was China’s first non-profit-making, non-governmental organization specializing in women’s legal aid. Since then, the centre has become an influential non-governmental organization safeguarding the rights and interests of women.
AI Xiaoming is a professor in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, Sun Yat-sen University, and head of the Sex/Gender Education Forum established in 2003. She is a feminist academic, a human rights activist, and director of several documentary films. Films she has directed include Care and Love (2007), the story of a villager who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion during childbirth and her attempts to seek legal redress against the hospital; The Epic of Central Plains (2006) on villagers in Henan Province who contracted AIDS while seeking to alleviate their poverty by selling their blood, and Tai Shi Village (2006) on the events surrounding a village’s attempts to remove their appointed local officials. Our Children (2009) is a documentary about the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that focuses on the experiences of parents whose children were killed when their schools collapsed.
As Prof. AI was not allowed to renew her passport, she sent a text that was read at the award ceremony.
Ai Xiaoming is a complete dynamo, an admirable agitator, to be sure. If only more of us were more comfortable with discomfort, more bold about throwing aside barriers to boldness… or as productive as Beauvoir…