On Thursday, Sep 26th, the former French President Jacques Chirac passed away in Paris at the age of 86. His influence was felt across France as thousands of French people, despite harsh weather condition, queued in Paris on Sep 29th to pay their last tribute after the funeral.
Jacques Chirac, center-right socialist politician, served as the president of France for 12 years from 1995 to 2007. He was best known globally for taking France into the Eurozone and his opposition to the Iraq war during his political career. However, his reputation experienced a little bit of damage when he was convicted for embezzlement and misuse of public funds in 2011. Despite Jacques Chirac’s political events, his close ties with China should be noted.
The death of former French President Jacques Chirac: One of the most discussed topics on Chinese social media
The death of former French President Jacques Chirac was one of the most talked-about topics on Chinese social media on Sep 26th and Sep 27th, generating hundreds of thousands of news, comments and pictures on social media.
According to the SEO tool Baidu Index, searches for the keyword“希拉克” (Chirac) spiked on Baidu for the period from Sep 26th to Sep 30th, and a peak was reached on Sep 27th.
Looking at WeChat Index, we can also see a peak in searches on each Sept 26th and Sep 27th.
For both Baidu Index and WeChat Index, “Chirac” was the most searched keyword out of a list of keywords: “Former French President Jacques Chirac passed away”; “Jacques Chirac”; and “Chirac”. Although this may be an indication that Chinese Netizens are not familiar with him, they did demonstrate interest in this news and the French President himself.
Two hashtags – #Former French President Chirac passed away and #Chirac generated discussion on Weibo. Referring to Weibo Index, the former reached a highest total readership of 1.7 billion at Sep 30th. The topic was ranked amongst ‘hottest topics’ on Weibo trends on Sep 26th, where over 87 million reads were reached.
Chinese netizens’ perception of Jacques Chirac and view towards his death
There is no doubt that Chinese netizens want to learn more about the former French President Jacques Chirac, which is not only shown from the fact that they are constantly searching up on Chirac, but also from the articles posted by KOLs or official news authorities. Apart from announcing the news that Jacques Chirac had passed away, most of these articles included a brief life story about him and the ties that he holds with China.
Chinese netizens’ perception of Jacques Chirac was very positive in general. Netizens agreed with many KOLs or news authorities that portrayed him as a ‘Good old friend’ of China. From the comments section of related Weibo posts, it can be seen that many Chinese remembered him as been an exceptional and wise leader who loved Chinese culture and for his contribution towards China-France relation. Despite that many accounts like China Daily also highlighted his notions against war, most positive comments still focused on his view regarding China instead of his other political event. There are a few negative comments that mentioned about his embezzlement conviction, but most netizens either overlooked or did not know about this issue.
Perception of Jacques Chirac in China: seen as a real Chinese Culture Fan
As seen from the Weibo and Wechat posts, Jacques Chirac was clearly recognized by Chinese Netizens as a political leader who had shown deep interest and love towards China and Chinese culture. A Zhihu article suggested that Chirac demonstrated his extensive knowledge of China through exploring Ancient Chinese bronze, Chinese poetry, dynastic order and many more. As a communist country, Chinese people share a strong sense of patriotism. They especially welcome and embrace those who share similar feelings about their culture and their country, which is the case for Jacques Chirac.
‘Golden 10 years’ of China-France relation
Chirac visited China four times during the 12 years of his presidency and was the first Western leader who visited the Terracotta Warriors. His affection for Chinese culture and frequent visits to China became the fundamental of the ‘Golden 10 years’ of China-France relation. As many Chinese Netizens remembered, the relation between the two countries was strongest when he was in position. The establishment of “global partnership” and “global strategic partnership” were all organized by the former French President Jacques Chirac with China. Let alone the political reasons, Chirac’s appreciation of China is definitely one of the major reasons behind this friendly relationship. Citing on one of the Zhihu comments below, this netizen applauses Chirac for having been a politician who understands the importance of a strategic plan for a country, rather than a politician who cares nothing but poll results.
Chinese Netizens’ current view on China-France relation
Chinese Netizens’ current view on China-France relation is, to an extent largely dependent upon their perception and expectation of the current president Emmanuel Macron. The proposed collaboration with China’s Belt and Road Initiative by Macron on his visit to Xian on Jan 8th,2018, is expected to bring a “new spring” of China-France relation. Furthermore, the video of Macron’s attempt to speak the Chinese phrase “make the Earth greater again”(“让地球再次伟大”) went viral on Chinese Social Media may imply to the Chinese that he embraces the Chinese culture and is ready to explore deeper. The current vision of Netizens is fairly positive in general and is sought to continue in the near future with the collaboration of both countries.
Overall, China-France relation has always been quite stable throughout the years, especially due to contributions of the former French President Jacques Chirac. Chinese people are yet to wait and see what the current French president Emmanuel Macron will do to manage and maintain the relationship between China and France.