France announces fast-track visas for Chinese tourists
Chinese visitors to France, the world's leading tourist destination, are to get fast-track visas, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced on Monday.
The measure was announced as part of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Paris establishing full diplomatic ties with Communist China.
The new visa regime under which travel requests from Chinese visitors will be processed within 48 hours is due to come into force on January 27.
"This will also be an occasion to promote France as a tourist destination to the Chinese public," Fabius said.
France is the prime European destination for Chinese tourists. A record 1.4 million visitors came from China last year.
Fabius also unveiled a year of planned events starting on 27 January 1964, the date date on which France broke ranks with the US to become one of the first countries to establish ties with the then-government of Mao Zedong.
Fabius told a press conference that former French president Charles De Gaulle's "pioneering" decision "gave France a special position in China" which had been buttressed over the years.
De Gaulle's decision caused diplomatic shockwaves at a time when the United States was still insisting the nationalist regime that had escaped to Taiwan should be considered the legitimate government of all China.
It was the era of the Cold War, and De Gaulle hoped to carve a middle way for France in the confrontation between the US and its allies on the one hand and the Communist world on the other.
"It was a visionary decision with respect to a great power in the making, whose importance in world affairs today bears testimony to it," Fabius said.
By way of comparison, full diplomatic relations between China and Britain were only established in 1972, and such relations with the United States were finally sealed in 1979.
The celebration events will include exhibitions in China showcasing the works of leading French artists such as the Impressionist painter Claude Monet and sculptor Auguste Rodin.
An exhibition on De Gaulle, France's wartime resistance hero who served as president between 1959 and 1969, will also take place and a bullet-riddled Citroen car in which he survived an assassination attempt by opponents of Algerian independence will be sent to China.
Meanwhile in Paris, treasures from China's Han dynasty will be on display and there will be several other events.
The inauguration event for the year-long programme of events will take place at the Grand Palais museum in Paris and include a solo performance by the famous Chinese pianist Lang Lang.
China will also be the guest of honour at the Paris art fair in March, while the spotlight will be on France in the Western China International Fair, in Sichuan province, home of the country’s pandas.
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