Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to sign a series of major business deals on the second day of a lavish state visit to France.
Xi is to hold talks on Wednesday with his French counterpart Francois Hollande, after which a raft of trade agreements are expected to be announced.
The three-day visit, which comes on the 50th year of full diplomatic ties, ends with a concert Thursday at the Versailles palace, built by Louis XIV and a symbol of absolute monarchy that ended with the 1789 French revolution.
Xi is on his first-ever European tour and after visiting The Netherlands and France will head to Germany and Belgium.
Xi and his glamorous singer wife Peng Liyuan began the French leg of their trip in the eastern city of Lyon, a former silk centre that forged enduring links with China from the 16th century.
“My visit to France … will allow me to work with President Francois Hollande … to sum up 50 years of Sino-French relations and to plan the future together,” Xi said at an official dinner.
On Wednesday, the couple visited bioMerieux, a French diagnostics company run by a prominent Lyon business dynasty that has old trade links with China.
“In the near future, the Chinese health sector will greatly develop and this will be in the interest of the Chinese people and the whole world,” Xi said.
He then visited the city’s Franco-Chinese Institute before leaving for Paris to meet the French president.
France lags behind some European neighbours, especially Germany, in trade and investment links with China.
It has worked hard to catch up, and deals in the aviation, nuclear, space, agriculture and urban development sectors are expected to be unveiled during Xi’s trip.
Details have been closely guarded by both sides. The only deal certain to be signed is one that will see Chinese company Dongfeng take a stake in troubled French auto giant Peugeot.
An agreement on the joint construction of civilian helicopters between Airbus Helicopters and China is also expected.