July 31, 2021

Interview with Olivier Guyonvarch, Consul General of France in Wuhan

(Photo: Zhang Wei/Beijing Information)

Beijing Information interviewed Mr. Olivier Guyonvarch, Consul General of France in Wuhan (Hubei) on July 25 to learn more about relations between France and the capital of the central province of Hubei. Here is the edited transcript.

Beijing Information : Why did you choose to study Chinese?

Olivier Guyonvarch: I chose to study Chinese because it was a childhood dream. I had been fascinated by “The Blue Lotus” when I was 7 or 8 years old. I had been very interested in the graphic beauty of Chinese characters. And then I decided to learn Chinese and it immediately fascinated me. I continued and did a master’s degree at Paris VII University.

Tell us how the Consulate General of France in Wuhan was established.

We decided to set up this consulate because there were very significant French investments in the automotive sector, in particular with the Citroën company which in 1992 had invested and built factories in Wuhan. And around Wuhan have come to settle many equipment manufacturers. So Wuhan was a very important French investment base. The second reason is that there was already a very important university cooperation with Wuhan, in particular with Wuda University. And then at the time, Wuhan was a region experiencing rapid economic growth, faster than the Chinese average. The French government found it interesting to establish its Consulate General here in Wuhan in 1998.

What are the advantages and characteristics of Wuhan compared to other major Chinese cities?

Wuhan was the birthplace of China’s metallurgical industry. Zhang Zhidong established the first steel industries in China here. Wuhan is a communication hub with the Yangtze River, railways, a very large airport with 56 international destinations including a direct line with Paris for seven years. The authorities in Wuhan and Hubei have preferential policies to welcome foreign investment. In addition, Wuhan is the largest university city in the world. There are therefore very rich and high quality human resources in Wuhan and it is very interesting for companies to recruit local engineers, technicians and workers.

You are coming back to Wuhan after many years: what changes have particularly impressed you?

I have found the city to be much cleaner, more pleasant, and easier to live with. Twenty years ago there was no metro and today there are multiple lines. When I left Wuhan twenty years ago there were only two bridges and today there are a dozen bridges. The East Lake has been developed, there are greenways. The only thing that hasn’t changed is that Wuhan people are still very welcoming.

What initiatives have been put in place to promote cooperation and economic exchanges between China and France in Wuhan?

Strengthening the links between Wuhan, Hubei and France is our daily job. In the economic field, we have more of an advisory role for companies, but it is not us who do economic cooperation, it is companies and investors who work in the field. On the other hand, in the cultural field, we do a lot with the Croisements Festival for example, for two months of the year, we organize many cultural events, in all fields, music, painting exhibitions, photographic exhibitions. , street arts. For example, we have encouraged a twinning between the Tour de la Grue Jaune and the Chamarande Festival in Essonne for artist exchanges. We are doing a lot for university cooperation with the Campus France service which promotes studies in France and which helps Wuhan students who wish to come and study in France to find information and to register at university. There is also a lot of scientific cooperation, especially in the field of medicine, since Wuhan hosts one of the four French-speaking medical sectors in China. About thirty students from the Wuda medical school choose French and will do internships in Nancy. We also try to promote tourism in France with our visa service, which does a lot to promote tourism. We encourage Chinese tourists not to go only to Paris, but to take an interest in other regions of France.

What are the experiences of cooperation between China and France in Wuhan that could serve as a model for other countries or other cities?

For example the Franco-Chinese sustainable city project of Caidian, we hope to make it a model for other cities in China and even other cities in the world, because the urban population in the world is constantly growing. increase and by around 2040, 75% of the world’s population will live in cities. It is therefore a project that is very important to us. We hope that it can serve as an example for other cities in China, but also in the world.

Where is this project at now?

There are already a dozen French companies that have taken part in it, for urban planning, networks of cold, heat, electricity, etc. Also on the question of the protection of the lake areas. So at the moment, we are starting to work really concretely in the field. It’s a long-term, fairly complex project. Our job is to make this project known to French companies working in the field of sustainable development and to encourage them to come and take an interest in Wuhan.

Tell us about the China-Europe rail freight in Wuhan.

When the first train arrived here in Wuhan, French Prime Minister Mr. Cazeneuve witnessed the opening of the container in which there was wine. WAE has just created a bonded warehouse for wine, so that’s interesting.

What other channels or means are useful to further promote cooperation between the two countries in the economic and trade fields?

We encourage French companies to come and take an interest in Wuhan and Hubei. We have organized a number of study trips, we bring in French companies in a particular field and we present to them both the local authorities who are specialists in this field, and we organize meetings with local companies. Chinese companies in Wuhan, hoping that these meetings will be able to give rise to exchanges and cooperation between these companies. We do not do the cooperation directly, but it is the companies. We play the role of intermediary. We can sometimes do analyzes, market studies. Some companies ask us for it and it is the economic service that takes care of it.

(Journalist: Liu Ting; editors: Jacques Fourrier, Yang Jiaqing)

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