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Sino-French friendship starts from a merchant ship


UPDATED :2024-03-18

French merchant ship the Amphitrite opened direct exchanges between China and France. (Screenshot from documentary series "The Amphitrite")

This year marks the 60th anniversary of China-France diplomatic ties. Looking back at the history, direct exchanges between the two countries started from the voyage of a French merchant ship more than 300 years ago.

The Amphitrite set sail from French seaport La Rochelle in March 1698, heading to China. The ship, loaded with French goods such as glass and woolen fabrics, arrived in Guangzhou in October the same year. When it returned to France in August 1700, it shipped back Chinese goods including porcelain and lacquerware which quickly set off a craze for Chinese goods in France and brought about the ship's second journey to China in 1701.

The Amphitrite not only opened the prelude of direct trade between China and France, but also facilitated exchanges in culture and science between the two countries. Several scientists came with the ship and stayed in China. They brought western science and culture to China and introduced classic Chinese books to Europe. In collaboration with Chinese scientists, they also accomplished the first map of China that adopted Western mapping techniques.

A documentary series named "The Amphitrite" was released in 2020 to mark the historical occasions.

The friendship between China and France continued on after the Amphitrite voyages. The two countries officially established diplomatic ties on January 27, 1964, making France the first major Western nation to formalize diplomatic relations with China.

In the following six decades, the two countries forged a comprehensive strategic partnership, held strategic dialogues, and conducted economic cooperation and cultural exchanges. France is China's third-largest trading partner and the third-largest source of investment in real terms in the EU. China is France's largest trading partner in Asia and the seventh largest globally. The two countries also opened the first civil air route between China and a Western country. A series of the China-France Year of Culture and Tourism activities are being held this year.

China announced on December 1 last year that it would implement a 15-day visa-free policy for short-term visitors from France to China. France later announced that Chinese holders of master's degrees who have studied in France could receive five-year visas.

Editor: Annie