China “Ready to Work” with New French President

China’s Foreign Ministry has said it is “ready to work” with France’s new Socialist president, François Hollande, but Beijing is viewing his election with some wariness. From AFP:

Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China’s President Hu Jintao had sent a message of congratulation to Hollande, who has vowed to slow the pace of Sarkozy’s public spending cuts ….

Asian markets and the euro slumped on Monday amid concerns that victories for Hollande in France and for opposition parties in Greece marked a backlash against austerity measures designed to contain the eurozone crisis.

Both Japan and China hold huge amounts of euro-denominated debt and Tokyo has said it will monitor Hollande’s economic policies closely.

Europe is China’s top export market, and the current eurozone crisis — which has seen a wave of credit-rating downgrades and brought Greece to the brink of default — has caused major concern in Beijing.

Accordingly, instead of celebrating the first election of a Socialist French president in 24 years, Global Times saw the result as a sign of Western democracies’ lack of direction. Democratic systems, it said, were creating an increasing number of problems, with politicians pandering to public whims and indulging in “celebrity-style performances”.

An administration change cannot generate the strong will needed to kick-start public debt reform in France. The change has to come from reflection of a wider scope. But protests against austerity measures from Greece to France have suggested that this much-needed reflection is far from coming. Statesmen are busy pleasing voters, not leading reflection ….

From neighboring Japan to faraway France, China has witnessed the power of democracy, and also the damage it can do if it goes to extremes ….

The French election saga, eye-catching as it is, looks like a waste of the French people’s political passion. In countries with a weaker social governance base, political games can incur broad social disaster.

A commentary at Xinhua was more diplomatic, stressing the “highly expected” continuation of a fruitful partnership between the two countries:

Now at the helm of his country and in the cockpit of Europe, the president-elect faces an uphill task to drive France out of the current economic quagmire and help steer Europe out of its still raging debt maelstrom.

In his endeavors, the new host of Elysee Palace will find in China a trustworthy partner both in improving bilateral and broader Europe-China relations and in tackling major challenges and pursuing common development.

China is a long-time cooperation partner of France, with bilateral ties having been witnessing steady progress. As has been amply proved, a closer China-France partnership carries a benefit and significance well beyond their borders.

Thus it is highly expected that the new French leadership will act in concert with its Chinese counterpart to further explore their cooperation potential and push bilateral relations further forward.

For analysis of the challenges facing the new president, see Xinhua and The Economist.