Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the former French Prime Minister now in Beijing to offer apologies and reassurances over the unpleasant reception afforded the Olympic torch during its relay through Paris, has pioneered an interesting new rapprochement. According to an approving report in the China Daily, Raffarin had this to say:
“No one! Even those from the minorities have the right to dally with the Sino-French friendship,” Raffarin told a briefing when asked what message he would send back to the Elysee Palace.
Overlooking for now the fact that most of the people dallying with the Parisian torch relay were French, not minorities, just what on Earth is Raffarin saying here? China Daily, in the story lede, interprets the statement as:
Former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said on Saturday he would tell his president that no minority should be allowed to impair the relationship between China and France.
If that is, in fact, what Raffarin means, it is a radical back-peddle from French President Sarkozy’s very public statements of concern about the Tibetan situation, and his willingness to boycott the Olympic opening ceremonies over this minority – er, Tibetan situation.
I suppose one could argue that Raffarin’s peculiar phrasing is just a racially flavored version of France’s One China policy. That is, instead of making the political argument – that the CCP has sovereignty over China, and France recognizes the CCP – Raffarin instead recognizes the Han Chinese as having sovereignty over China, and France only recognizes the Han.
I guess the next question is: how do the Chinese feel about this? Theoretically, and often in practice, China is a successful multi-ethnic society, and takes pride in being so. On the other hand, Chinese leadership remains a largely Han affair, with little reason to believe that it will soon be otherwise.
[for the record: Raffarin has a storied history of suspicion toward religious minorities, particularly those who have emigrated to France, or aspire to EU membership. Memorably, he opposed Turkish membership in the EU by asking: "Do we (Europeans) want the river of Islam to enter the riverbed of secularism?" Surely, this point of view has informed his approach toward China's religious minorities.]