高大伟:远见与文明——纪念中法建交五十周年(1964-2014)

来源:观察者网

2014-01-27 05:27

高大伟

高大伟作者

中欧国际工商学院教授,中欧论坛创始人

【1964年1月27日,中、法两国政府发表联合公报决定建立外交关系。在中法建交50周年纪念日来临之际,中欧国际商学院法籍教授、中欧论坛创始人高大伟先生赐稿观察者网,从文明与历史的高度论述中法关系。文章由南开大学张宁翻译,观察者网杨晗轶校对。】

48年前,时任法国总统的戴高乐(1890-1970)在柬埔寨首都金边发表演说。如果说那是一曲戴高乐主义的史诗,那么中国导演王家卫在电影《花样年华》插入戴高乐金边之行的新闻片段则完全是出人意料的手笔。这个真实的历史片段,通过诗化的镜头语言娓娓道来,不同的人有不同的解读,但它的确反映出中国人的精神中有着戴高乐的影子。

“中国这头睡狮一旦醒来,世界将为之颤抖。”这句拿破仑•波拿巴(1769-1821)恐怕从未说过的话,虽已成为老生常谈的名言,但戴高乐倒确实曾于1965年9月9日的一场新闻记者会上作出以下精辟的表述:“中国深刻的变革,使中国处于领导世界的位置,这件具有重大影响力的事实正在重塑着世界的面貌。”

时间证明了戴高乐的预言,中国的复兴没有以暴力破坏全球体系,而是以和平的方式,在循序渐进的过程中改变了世界权力分布。

范曾作品:《戴高乐像》(高大伟先生供图)

戴高乐的远见

在马年即将来临之际,中法两国于1月27日共同庆祝建交50周年。站在法国人的角度看中法建交,夏尔•戴高乐,这名20世纪世界政坛巨人、法国最伟大的政治家之一,当年可谓以一己之力做出了正式承认北京政府的决定。

就在中法联合公报发表后数日内,《时代》杂志针对黎塞留至戴高乐时代的法国外交评论道:“作为一个国家,法国在20世纪一直走在凋敝的路上……但就在上周,法国再一次撼动世界事务,将不可能变为了可能……为使法国真正重归世界强国之列,戴高乐不顾华盛顿方面的抗议,承认北京的共产党政权为中国唯一合法政府,对美国的亚洲政策造成了严重伤害。”

在上世纪六十年代的地缘政治背景下,戴高乐对中国的判断可谓高瞻远瞩,透过纷纭的现象把握住了本质性的历史趋势。

戴高乐不但靠敏锐政治头脑和战略思维开启了巴黎与北京之间的特殊关系,而且以开拓精神为未来的中法合作打下了基准点。

在新中国成立初期,只有苏联集团成员国立刻承认了中国政府的合法性。虽然瑞典、丹麦、瑞士、列支敦士登和英国陆续与中国建立了关系,但法国才是率先与北京政府建立大使级外交关系的西方大国。

法国前教育部长吕西安•贝耶(1907-1972)于1964年5月27日抵达北京,出任首任法国驻华大使。当时,年轻的中华人民共和国不仅在意识形态领域与美国统领的西方阵营交锋,而且与印度和苏联这两大邻国交恶。

1964年,吕西安·贝耶访华。图为当年5月31日,吕西安向时任国家主席刘少奇递交国书

时任美国总统的民主党人林登•约翰逊(1908-1973)遵照系统遏制政策,积极支持美国对越南进行大规模武装干涉,以阻止共产主义在越南扩张。此外,1962年,印度军队与中国人民解放军在中印边境山区爆发冲突。尼基塔•赫鲁晓夫(1894-1971)倾向于支持印度总理尼赫鲁(1889-1964),再次暴露出中苏关系的裂痕。

由于美国在二战后全球秩序中的首要地位,七十年代尼克松对北京方面抛出的橄榄枝成为了地缘政治中最重要的分水岭。中苏关系的破裂,给美国带来了大三角外交的契机,也成为政治评论家们大做文章的题材。具有讽刺意味的是,美国运用的正是中国古代“以夷制夷”外交战略的现代版本。

美国前国务卿亨利•基辛格出色地构想并导演了这出外交政策的大转移,曾任尼克松总统国家安全顾问的基辛格在1994年出版的《大外交》一书中提及了戴高乐将军的远见:“中苏关系的破裂带来了内在的机遇,有意思的是,最初看到这一点的领袖,是欧洲的外交老人戴高乐。”遗憾的是,基辛格在其2011年新作《论中国》中,对戴高乐主义的法国扮演的先锋角色避而不谈,似乎有意让岁月冲淡记忆,在世人前树立自己对华外交开路者的形象。

60年代时,本已孤立于国际舞台的中国又遭遇了相当严重的内部危机。1958年,中央政府欲加速全国工业化脚步,提出了“大跃进”。欲速则不达,一场巨大的经济灾难最终演变成了全国性灾难。从庐山会议可以看出,中共领导层出现了分歧。

在这样的背景之下,1962年年末,毛泽东创作了《七律•冬云》,将中国上空云谲波诡的危险化作笔下的诗句:“独有英雄驱虎豹,更无豪杰怕熊罴。”这名指挥长征的老军事家用生动的比喻,将笔锋直接对准了国外的敌对势力。

这样的环境吓得住懦夫,却阻止不了满怀决心的戴高乐。1964年1月31日,他在爱丽舍宫向数百名记者解释了法国做出承认北京政府的决定。

身高1米96的戴高乐被法国人民亲切地称为“大个子夏尔”,他是个超乎常人的演说家,在动笔写《回忆录》之前就已写过六本书。和丘吉尔一样,戴高乐继承了古希腊的雄辩传统,能够将统治权威升华为领袖魅力。

新闻记者会上,戴高乐表述了他对中国的看法。那也是他戏剧般的演说最令人记忆深刻的一幕。《时代》杂志记录道:“一片由细长的金椅子组成的海洋上,正襟危坐着一千余名新闻记者、外交官和政府官员,当下午三点的钟声敲响时,紫红色的大幕徐徐拉开,戴高乐沉重迟缓地走向演讲台。”

戏剧般的出场并没有分散听众的注意力,演讲的丰富内容依然是关注的焦点。戴高乐的推论有两大支柱,一是长远眼光;二是透过暂时的、纷纭的现象把握永恒的实质,这也是戴高乐主义的两大鲜明特征。

这位法国政治家以中国的人口与地理事实为切入点开始了新闻发布会的演讲。在广袤的国土上,居住着“伟大的中国人民”。中华民族是地球上人数最多的民族,他们“聚群而居,广泛分布”于“西起小亚细亚与欧洲边疆,东至无边无际的太平洋海岸,北起天寒地冻的西伯利亚,南至印度、越南等热带国家”的欧亚大陆。戴高乐对中国庞大的人口和国土有着深刻的理解,认为“人们必须理性地认识这一客观现实”,必须与中国领导层进行合作。因为只有中国积极地、建设性地参与到国际事务中来,才能真正解决亚洲乃至世界长期存在的严重问题。

然后,戴高乐引出了自己对“中国之世界”的重要思考:中国不是一个民族或一个民族国家,中国从根本而言是一个文明,一个“非常独特而深厚的文明”。

很明显,作为一个西方大国,法国率先承认中华人民共和国,体现出一种政治姿态,带有地缘政治上的动机,通过承认共产党政权,巴黎向华盛顿和莫斯科发出了自主外交的信号。戴高乐也非常清楚,中国的战略目标是巩固国家主权与强化政治独立。

 

 

 

1964年10月16日,中国第一个原子弹在罗布泊实验基地爆炸成功。前一年,法国和中国都没有签署为了限制军备竞赛的“部分禁止核试验条约”。戴高乐相信多极秩序比单极或危险的两极结构更有利于世界持久的平衡。在一些圈子里,戴高乐的“伟大政治”引起了不安与骚动。

1964年2月7日,戴高乐的外交部长顾夫•德姆维尔(1907-1999)成为《时代》杂志的封面人物,背景是18世纪具有中国艺术风格特征的法国画家让•安东尼•华多的作品“凝视者”,这个恰当的背景巧妙地暗示了戴高乐对中国的立场与政策。

《时代》杂志紧接着发表了一位读者的来信,这位读者表达了自己被法国新立场激起的强烈情感,信中说:“谢谢你们把德姆维尔的照片放在了上周《时代》的封面,这将会使成千上万像我这样的读者把它撕毁、烧掉甚至是把它踩在脚下。法国怎敢把台北称为福摩萨政府,怎敢承认毛泽东的北京是中国的政府?”

就在有人对法国政府表达强烈抗议的同时,周恩来总理(1898-1976)正在非洲访问。当他听到法国承认中国政府的消息时,以法语向法国驻苏丹大使致以问候“Bonjour,bonjour,comment allez-vous?”(你好,你好,过得好吗?),并回顾了他20年代在法国留学的岁月。

然而,如果我们把戴高乐的决定完全看作一种政治手段的话,便忽略了戴高乐主义的一个基本要素。戴高乐把中国视为一种文明,他考虑到了一个更为本质的现实,超越了人们习以为常的地缘政治上的算计。对他而言,法国政府不仅必须与另一个外国政府共事协作,更重要的是,他想让古老的法兰西民族与历史更加悠久的中国文明联系起来。

“永恒中国”理念

戴高乐非常重视长久性,他唤起了一个“永恒中国”,一个“意识到这种不变的持久性,并为之自豪”的中国。在戴高乐背后,有一位鲜为人知的人物,他是连接戴高乐与亚洲最重要的纽带,也是戴高乐获取有关中国的关键信息的来源之一。这个人不是外交官,也不是商人,而是一名影响力巨大的作家,也是法国首任文化事务部长(1959-1969)。

安德烈•马尔罗(1901-1976)是一个书生报国的典型;是20世纪重大危机的亲历者和评论者;一身兼具百科全书式的渊博学识和游历各国的实地经验。在22岁时探寻了高棉文化之后,他终身都密切关注亚洲的转型和中国的蜕变。马尔罗以1927年的上海为背景,创作了小说《人类的命运》,书中一名人物刺杀国民党领袖蒋介石(1887-1975)失败,惨遭杀害。

在戴高乐眼中,马尔罗不只是法国政府的一位成员,正如他在自己的《回忆录》中写道,马尔罗也是自己“出色的朋友,热切关注着不同寻常的命运”。马尔罗与中华文明元素的智慧对话和戴高乐对文明永恒的倾向性一拍即合,相得益彰。

1965年,戴高乐派马尔罗作为自己的私人使节访问中国。这是马尔罗阔别神州40年后再次踏上中国的土地。在北京,他与时任外交部长的陈毅(1901-1972),以及周恩来、毛泽东等党和国家领导人进行了会谈。陈毅与周恩来、邓小平(1904-1997)有着类似的经历,曾于第一次世界大战之后在法国度过了一段时间,对留法岁月的记忆拉近了部分中国领导人们与法国精英间的距离。

马尔罗在自己的《反回忆录》(1967)中记录了那些谈话的内容。从这部史诗般的叙述作品可以看出,在历史潮流塑造杰出人物的同时,伟人的意志也创造了历史。

马尔罗把毛泽东想象为“青铜皇帝”,以神谕般的笔调宣称,“欧洲持续300年的活力正在枯涸,而中国时代已经开始”。马尔罗还借“青铜皇帝”的嘴说出了下面这句耐人寻味的话:“我很孤单……只有一些遥远的朋友,请代我向戴高乐将军问好。”

戴高乐与毛泽东从未谋面,但马尔罗注意到两人都有一种特别的“内在疏离感”。基辛格在《白宫岁月》中,也将戴高乐和毛泽东二人相提并论。在谈及毛泽东时,他写道,“除了戴高乐以外,我从来没有见过任何像他(毛泽东)那样意志坚强纯粹的人。”

马尔罗不但影响了戴高乐对中国的看法,而且对美国总统尼克松接近北京的方式也产生了一定的影响。在1972年2月访华前夕,尼克松将这位时年71岁的法国作家邀请到白宫做客。在回忆录中,尼克松写道,“我又问马尔罗,毛泽东百年之后将会是何等情形。他答道,‘正如毛泽东所言,他后继无人’。他这是什么意思呢?他的意思是丘吉尔、甘地、戴高乐等伟大的领袖,是由具有创伤性的天下大势造就的,但这类历史事件不会在世界上重演了。”

在戴高乐与媒体颇有戏剧性的对话中,他不断提及自己从历史根源中汲取自省的养分。谈到中国时,他不无夸张地宣称中国“比历史还要古老”,通过挑战人类历史记载的极限,戴高乐出奇地培养了一种洞察现在的能力。他通过真诚的感召,使听众设身处地感受到中国在适应现代性过程中所经历的百年磨难,以及中国人民遭受西方帝国主义压迫的屈辱。

作为反对纳粹主义的英雄,戴高乐为自己国家的独立而奋战;作为非殖民地化的主要倡行者之一,戴高乐捍卫了其它国家的尊严。

戴高乐在新闻发言结尾处提出了中法之间的“亲近性”。中法两个大国处于欧亚大陆的两端,有些人选择强调两国间的区别,戴高乐却坚持两国的共同点与相互吸引之处,这无疑是正确的选择。

从康熙皇帝(1654-1722)与路易十四国王(1638-1715)久远而庄严关系开始,到左宗棠(1812-1885)与日意格(Prosper Giquel,1835-1886)之间的合作,或者李石曾(1881-1973)与他的支持者赫里欧(Édouart Herriot,1872-1957)或奥拉尔(Alphonse Aulard,1849-1928)之间在教育领域的活动,亲法的中国人一直与亲中的法国人彼此呼应。

“伟大”与“中心性” “中国梦”与“法国影响力”

在过去五十年中,世界格局虽然发生了巨大的变化,但戴高乐主义却并未因此失去时代意义。将戴高乐主义高度提炼成一句话,那便是:把永久的现实作为行动的方针。

伟大(la grandeur)是法国民族品格中的核心概念。戴高乐正是在这种民族品格的照耀下思考和行动的。在世界舞台上,法国的相对国力时有变化,相对复兴中的中国而言,法国的影响力必然在减小,但法国坚持扮演独特角色的信念却始终不渝。

作为法国的国家格言,自由、平等、博爱的提出是法国对世界的贡献,它既是法兰西民族追求“伟大”的结果,又是开创“伟大”的来源,只有全民都满怀壮志并付诸行动的国家,才提得出这样具有革命意义的原则,这些原则同时也是伟大的集体力量的源泉。

在中国的语境里,“中”或“中心性”正好对应着法国式的“伟大”。如果说对“伟大”的追求激励了法国历代君王、皇帝与总统,那么“中国”本身就代表了中央之国处于天下的中心地位。凡尔赛宫与紫禁城、协和广场(Place of La Concorde)与天安门广场,这些宏伟的建筑群,显然都在以沉默的建筑语言讲述着“伟大民族”与“中心国家”的故事。

在过去数千年中,中国在巨大的历史整合中将地球上五分之一的人口团结在一起。展望未来,中国将继续在全球层面运用这种协调力量。

法国的生命力来自一种自觉向外辐射的努力,法国构想并阐述了一个具有启迪意义宏大事业,并意欲影响、联合外部世界;中国则与此不同,“中央之国”凝聚着广大的人口,并以从未中断的文明融合外部世界,其影响力来自一种向内的引力。

中国与法国都有极高的自我形象,总体而言,两国人民对各自国运的盛衰变迁非常敏感,当“伟大”或“中心性”在历史的沉浮中退化为追忆昔日辉煌的一道符号时,中法两国的失落感相比其它政治体来得更加强烈。

除却一些中法关系的偶然因素、临时政权、暂时性政经状况之外,巴黎和北京一直高度关注着全人类的命运,中法两国未来也必将明确地表达出“伟大”,含蓄地体现出“中心性”。

在21世纪,中法两国必须通力合作,以期实现中华民族伟大复兴的“中国梦”,以及法国外交部长洛朗•法比尤斯针对法国所提出的“影响力”。

不无讽刺意味的是,法国的自我定位与法国国家实力之间的差距正在加大;与之形成鲜明对比的是,中国的中心地位正在逐步加强。然而,世界各国实力的演变不会抹杀法国丰富的遗产,也不会遗忘在欧洲形成过程中法国所做出的贡献。更加宽泛而言,正是在最具挑战的形势下,“伟大”这个理念才能重振法国的活力。

“中心性”与“伟大”之间的协合效应,远远超过中法对各自政治身份的简单肯定,这种协同效应更是新人文主义在全球复兴的原动力;是促进东西沟通、南北对话的推动力;也是一种实实在在的普世主义。

2000多年前,儒家的人文主义将整个华夏文明提升到新高度;18世纪,《百科全书》(《百科全书,或科学、艺术和工艺详解词典》)的编撰者狄德罗(1713-1784)、达朗贝尔(1717-1783),以及写下《人类精神进步史表纲要》的孔多赛(1743-1794)启迪了整个欧洲。在当今世界,各国前所未有地呈现出相互依赖的态势,中法知识界的交流互动已经对全球文明的形成做出了贡献。

中国传统书画巨匠范曾先生运用丹青妙笔,在纸上赋予了戴高乐不朽的生命。这时,“伟大”与“中心性”已是水乳交融,人类对团结与进步的探求已不仅是法国人或中国人的追求,而是一种不分你我的普世理想。 

范曾先生在戴高乐将军书房

(翻页请看英文原文)

 

 

 

Grandeur And Centrality

Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between France and China.

By David Gosset

If the speech pronounced 48 years ago in Phnom Penh by the French President Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) belongs to the Gaullist epic, the use by the Chinese director Wong Kar-wai of the statesman’s arrival in the Khmer capital as a newsreel sequence of “In the Mood for Love” was certainly unexpected. Open to various interpretations, this realistic moment in a highly poetic creation signals the subtle presence of De Gaulle in the Chinese psyche.

One repeatedly attributes to Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) a statement he probably never uttered and which has become an inept cliché: “When China awakes, the world will shake.” In a press conference on September 9, 1965, Charles de Gaulle did present a more nuanced view: “A fact of considerable significance is at work and is reshaping the world: China's very deep transformation puts her in a position to have a global leading role.”

Time has confirmed De Gaulle’s prediction, the Chinese renaissance has modified the world's distribution of power in a gradual and peaceful process without any abrupt discontinuity nor violent disruption.

On January 27, three days before the beginning of the Year of the Horse, one will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between France and the People's Republic of China. From a French perspective, the full recognition of the Beijing's government was, above all, the decision of one man, Charles de Gaulle, one of France's greatest statesmen and a colossus of the 20th century world politics.

Days after the 1964 announcement, the Time magazine commented the new state of affairs in a report on French diplomacy from Richelieu to De Gaulle which gave a sense of the global echo and significance of the Gaullist breakthrough: “As a nation, France has seemed to be dying all through the 20th century … Yet last week the impossible had apparently come true, and France was once more a mover and shaker in world affairs ... To cap his nation's re-emergence as a world power, De Gaulle recognized the communist regime in Beijing as the government of China, brushing aside protests from Washington that the move would seriously damage U.S. policy in Asia.”

In the geopolitical context of the 1960s, De Gaulle's judgment upon China was visionary and an illustration of his ability to discern the fundamental historical trends from perhaps more spectacular but less consequential phenomena.

His acumen and strategic thinking were not only at the origin of a special relationship between Paris and Beijing, but the spirit of his groundbreaking decision remains a point of reference for the future of the Sino-French cooperation.

Only members of the Soviet bloc immediately recognized the new Chinese regime in 1949. Although Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the UK established relations with China one year after Mao Zedong (1893-1976) had proclaimed the birth of the People’s Republic on Tiananmen Square, France was the first among the major Western countries to opt for diplomatic relations with Beijing at the ambassadorial level.

When Lucien Paye (1907-1972), who had been minister of education, arrived in Beijing on May 27, 1964 as De Gaulle's first ambassador in China, the 15-year-old People's Republic was not only in an ideological battle against the American-led Western world, but it was also at odds with its two gigantic neighbors, India and the USSR.

The American President, Lyndon Johnson (1908-1973), a Democrat, adhered to a policy of systematic containment and actively supported the massive American military intervention in Vietnam in order to stop what he feared to be the expansion of communism. Furthermore, in 1962, India clashed with the People's Liberation Army over border disputes in the Himalayas, and in another sign of a Sino-Soviet split, Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971) tended to back the Pandit Nehru (1889-1964) in its complex relations with China.

Due to the preeminent American position in the post-Second World War global order, Nixon's opening to Beijing in the 70s was a geopolitical watershed of the highest importance. Commentators often expand on the American triangular diplomacy which used the options offered by the rivalries between Beijing and Moscow, an ironic American application of the Chinese strategy of “using the foreigners to subdue the foreigners” – yi yi zhi yi.

The former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger conceived and masterfully orchestrated this foreign policy shift, but Nixon's national security advisor has acknowledged in Diplomacy (1994) the French General's foresight: “Interestingly enough, the leader who had first perceived the opportunities inherent in a Sino-Soviet split was the old man of European diplomacy, De Gaulle”. But, regrettably, Kissinger chose to ignore in his more recent On China (2011) the pioneering role played by Gaullian France as if he wishes to be remembered with the passage of time as the original trailblazer.

In the 1960s, isolated on the international stage, China was also facing an internal crisis of considerable magnitude. In 1958 the central government wanted to accelerate the country's industrialization in a “Great Leap Forward”. It was an enormous economic failure, a move backward which generated a tragic collective disaster. With Peng Dehuai's courageous disapproval of the movement at the Lushan conference, but also Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi's legitimate criticisms of Mao's radical economic policies, the ruling communist party was seriously divided.

It is in this context that at the end of 1962, Mao Zedong composed the poem Winter Clouds which encapsulated his perception of the imminent dangers looming over China. In it, the Long March's old commander boldly pointed at hostile foreign forces with vivid metaphors: “Only heroes can quell tigers and leopards and wild bears never daunt the brave”.

In circumstances which would have deterred less confident characters, De Gaulle demonstrated his sound resolution, on January 31, 1964, in the Élysée Palace, he explained his decision to recognize Beijing in a press conference attended by hundreds of journalists.

1.96 m tall, affectionately called by the French people “le Grand Charles”, he was a prodigious orator who had written six books before he embarked on his famous Memoirs. In the Gaullian orations like in the Churchillian addresses the echo of the greatest Hellenic voices metamorphosed authority into charisma.

The press conference contained his thoughts on China, but is also a memorable moment of Gaullian dramaturgy which is described in these terms by the Time writer: “More than 1,000 newsmen, diplomats and officials were perched anxiously on a sea of spindly gold chairs when at the stroke of 3:00 pm the raspberry-red curtains parted and De Gaulle lumbered to the podium”.

The theatrical appearance should not distract from the rich content of De Gaulle's presentation. His reasoning was solidly based upon two pillars which are also two distinctive features of Gaullism: a long-term view and the effort to take into consideration, beyond transitory events or relatively short-lived phenomena, more permanent realities.

The French statesman began his conference with demographic and geographic facts. “The great Chinese people”, the largest on earth, inhabit a very vast country, “compact but without unity”, which, “spans from Asia Minor and Europe's marchlands to the immense Pacific coast and from the freezing Siberia to the tropical regions of India and Tonkin”. De Gaulle comprehended the implications of China's size and considering “the weight of evidence and reason” decided that one had to work with the Chinese leadership. Long-lasting solutions to any serious problem in Asia or even in the world depends on the active and constructive participation of China.

Then, De Gaulle introduced the keystone of his thinking on the Chinese world: China is not a nation or a nation-state, but fundamentally is a civilization, a “very unique and very deep civilization”.

Obviously, France's early recognition of the People’s Republic of China was a political gesture with geopolitical motives, by recognizing Mao's government Paris signaled to both Washington and Moscow that France was an autonomous diplomatic force. De Gaulle was also well aware that China's strategic objective was to consolidate her sovereignty and to strengthen her independence.

It was on October 16, 1964 that Beijing detonated its first nuclear weapon at the Lop Nur test site. One year earlier, neither France nor China had signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which aimed to limit the arms race. De Gaulle believed that a multipolar order would be more conducive to sustainable equilibrium than either unipolarity or the dangerous bipolar structure. In some circles, De Gaulle's politics of grandeur caused uneasiness and uproar.

On February 7, 1964, Maurice Couve de Murville (1907-1999), De Gaulle's Foreign Minister, was on Time magazine's cover with a felicitous backdrop, the “Gazer” by Jean-Antoine Watteau, a 18th century French painter known for his chinoiserie, an arty allusion to De Gaulle's China policy.

In the following issue, the magazine published a letter from one of its readers which gives an idea of the strong emotion triggered by France's new stand: “Thank you for putting Couve de Murville's picture on the cover of last week's Time magazine. This will enable thousands of people like me to tear it up, burn it, or even step on it. How dare France call Taipei the government of Formosa and recognize Mao's Beijing as the government of China?”

At the opposite of such violent opposition, when Prime Minister Zhou Enlai (1898-1976) heard the news of the recognition while on a visit in Africa, he addressed the French Ambassador in Sudan: “Bonjour, bonjour, comment allez-vous?”, and recalled that he had been a student in France in the 1920s.

However, by entirely reducing De Gaulle's decision to politics one is missing a fundamental component of Gaullism. When he apprehended China as a civilization, De Gaulle transcended the usual geopolitical calculations and took into account a more essential reality. For him the French administration had to work with another foreign government but, more fundamentally, he wanted the old French nation to connect with the immemorial Chinese civilization.

De Gaulle was so focused on the idea of permanence that he evoked an “eternal China” which is “conscious and proud of an immutable perennity”. Revealingly, De Gaulle's most important link with Asia and arguably one of his most influential sources of information on China, was not a diplomat or a businessman, but a powerful writer, who served the French President during a decade as the country’s first Minister for Cultural Affairs (1959-1969).

André Malraux (1901-1976), an incarnation of the engaged intellectual, commentator and actor of the 20th century major crises, combined an encyclopedic erudition with the traveler's experience of the world's diversity. At the age of 22 he explored the Khmer culture, and through his life he remained curious about the Asian continent's transformation and followed China's metamorphosis. In Man's Fate, a novel which takes place in Shanghai in 1927, one of his characters is killed in a failed attack against Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975), the leader of the Kuomintang.

In De Gaulle’s eyes, Malraux was not only another member of the French government but, as he wrote in his Memoirs, “this brilliant friend, fervent about exceptional destinies”. Malraux's intellectual dialogue with the elements of the Chinese civilization and De Gaulle's inclination toward the permanence of culture reinforced each other.

In 1965, De Gaulle asked Malraux to visit China as his personal envoy. In Beijing, 40 years after his first trip to China, Malraux had conversations with Chen Yi (1901-1972), the Chinese Foreign Minister who had been commander of the New Fourth Army and the first mayor of Shanghai after 1949, but also with Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong. Like Zhou Enlai, but also Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997), Chen Yi had spent some time in France after the First World War, an episode conducive to a sentiment of relative proximity between some of the Chinese leaders and the French elite.

Malraux published the content of his conversations in his Anti-memoirs (1967), an epic narrative where historical forces forge extraordinary lives as much as powerful human wills make history.

Malraux visualizes Mao as the “Emperor of bronze” and he announces in a Delphic manner that “300 hundred years of European energy are fading while the Chinese-era begins”. He also attributes to the “Emperor of bronze” these intriguing words: “I am alone … or just with few faraway friends: please convey my regards to the General de Gaulle”.

De Gaulle and Mao never met but Malraux noticed that they had in common the same extraordinary “inner aloofness”. In the “White House Years”, Kissinger drew also a parallel between the two figures. Talking about Mao he wrote: “I have met no one, with the possible exception of Charles de Gaulle, who so distilled raw, concentrated willpower.”

Malraux did not only influence De Gaulle's perception on China but he had also an impact on the way Nixon approached his journey to Beijing. Before his trip to China in February 1972, the American President invited the 71-year-old French author to the White House. In his memoirs, Nixon remembers: “I asked Malraux again what came after Mao. Malraux replied: 'It is exactly as Mao said, he has no successor.' What did he mean by it? He meant that in his view the great leaders - Churchill, Gandhi, De Gaulle - were created by the kind of traumatic historical events that will not occur in the world anymore”.

In his dramatic conversation with the media, De Gaulle consistently mentioned the roots of the past as a nourishment of his reflection. On the Chinese state, he hyperbolically declared that it is “more ancient than History”, by going at the limit of the recorded memory he paradoxically developed a perceptive understanding of the present. It is with a sincere empathy that De Gaulle reminded his audience of China's painful adjustment to modernity over the past one hundred years, and the Chinese people's sentiment of humiliation when they had to suffer Western imperialism.

As the hero of the resistance against Nazism, De Gaulle fought for the independence of his country, as one of the main architects of decolonization he defended the dignity of other nations.

De Gaulle concluded his presentation with a remark on what he called the “affinities” between France and China, while some chose to emphasize what separates the two edges of Eurasia, he rightly insisted on the mutual attraction and the commonalities between the two powers.

From the majestic but distant relations between the Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) and the King Louis XIV (1638-1715), to the collaboration between Zuo Zongtang (1812-1885) and Prosper Giquel (1835-1886), or the action in the field of education by Li Shizeng (1881-1973) and his support Édouart Herriot (1872-1957) or Alphonse Aulard (1849-1928), Chinese Francophiles always responded to the call of French Sinophiles.

The world has changed significantly in the past five decades but the mutations did not affect radically the relevance of Gaullism which is, in its highest expression, the effort to act according to permanent realities.

De Gaulle thought and acted under the light of la grandeur, a notion which is at the heart of France’s national character. The relative weight of the French power varies, and it has certainly been diminishing by comparison with the Chinese reemergence, but the self-perception of the singular role it has to play is constant.

The imperatives of Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité, French propositions to the world, have been both a product and a generator of this passion for grandeur, only the exalted aspiration of a nation in movement could proclaim such revolutionary principles but they were at the same time the source of a powerful collective energy.

In the Chinese context, centrality – zhong, 中 – mirrors the French grandeur. If a sense of grandeur inspired the French monarchs, emperors and presidents, the “Middle Country” envisioned for itself centrality under Heaven. Versailles and the Forbidden City, the Place of La Concorde and Tiananmen Square are obvious architectural illustrations of the correspondence between the “Grande Nation” and the “Middle Country”.

China which has been through the millenia a prodigious process of synthesis unifying one fifth of mankind will go on to apply her harmonizing force at a global level.

Animated by a conscious effort of radiation or rayonnement, France aims to federate around what she conceives and enunciates as an enlightening project, by contrast, China’s impact is by gravitation, the “Middle Country” coheres around its demographic mass and the continuity of its civilization.

Having the highest self-image, the Chinese and the French are, taken collectively, especially sensitive to the variations of fortune and, when the inevitable vicissitudes of history reduce the grandeur or the centrality to a mere nostalgic representation, the sentiment of loss can be for them more acute than for other political bodies.

Beyond the contingent parameters of the Sino-French relations, transient administrations or politico-economic conditions, Paris and Beijing, concerned by the destiny of mankind, will always find it necessary to articulate an explicit grandeur and an implicit centrality.

In the 21st century they have to coordinate the “China Dream” of renaissance and what the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius names in reference to his country “puissance d’influence”, “influential power”.

Ironically, the gap between France’s representation of herself and the weight of her relative power is widening and, therefore, contrasts with the Chinese centrality which is increasingly effective, but the global evolution won’t erase the rich French heritage nor the French contribution to the making of Europe, and, more generally, it is precisely in the middle of the most challenging circumstances that the idea of grandeur itself can re-energize the country.

The synergies between centrality and grandeur are more than the affirmation of two separate political identities, they are impulsions for the new humanism of a global renaissance, connections between East and West as much as North and South, they are concrete universalism.

More than two millennia ago Confucian humanism elevated the Chinese world, in the 18th century the “Encyclopedists”, Diderot (1713-1784), D’Alembert (1717-1783) or Condorcet (1743-1794), enlightened an entire continent, in a world of unprecedented interdependence the Sino-French intellectual interactions have already contributed to the making of a global civilization.

When the last grand master of the Chinese traditional painting, Fan Zeng, resurrects Charles De Gaulle in an ink portrait, grandeur and centrality have already cross-fertilized, the human quest for solidarity and progress has ceased to be French or Chinese, it has simply become universal.

David Gosset is director of the Academia Sinica Europaea at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), Shanghai, Beijing & Accra, and founder of the Euro-China Forum.

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