French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi Jinping leave after a press conference in Beijing. Photo: Reuters / Charles Platiau

The push back against Chinese technology investments abroad has continued this week during French President Emanuel Macron’s visit to China, with one official suggesting China’s practices amount to “looting.”

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday in Beijing that, from now on, Chinese investments in France will be screened, reportedly adding, “and I reject many.”

The official’s comments come as Macron seeks to push for a more balanced trade relationship, echoing US President Trump’s focus on trade deficits. Macron has said that he hopes to reduce France’s US$35 billion trade shortfall with China.

Not pulling punches in his characterization of controversial Chinese investments, Le Maire was quoted by Reuters as saying, “we accept long-term investments but not looting.”

Responding to media reports of Macron’s trip, Chinese state-run Global Times suggested that France take a look in the mirror when talking about the trade deficit:

A lack of competitiveness is the main reason for France’s trade deficit with China. The traditional export fields such as high-speed trains, cars and communication devices have not performed well in the Chinese market. French products cannot compete with those from Germany and the US. Also, the emerging “Made in China” plan has also shaken the sales of French products in China.

The editorial said that French automakers, such as PSA Peugot Citroen and Renault perform weakly against German brands, while phone maker Alcatel has fallen by the wayside amid the popularity of Apple and Huawei.

In addition to upping its game, the commentary said, France also needs to cough up technology to keep up in the Chinese market.

“If [the French automobile industry] only uses China as a manufacturer without offering core technologies, it will inevitably lag behind […] To cut its deficit with China, France has to increase its competitiveness, revive its own economy and deepen cooperation with China in high technology.”

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