French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte began their three-day official visit to China in the northern city of Xian, which was once the starting point of the ancient Silk Road trading route that stretched across Asia.
"They can not be the roads of a new hegemony that will put the countries that they traverse in a vassal state", he said. Although China is France's second-biggest supplier of goods, it ranks eighth in terms of the top buyers of French goods.
In a speech to French diplomats on Thursday, Macron defended his persistent calls for a more balanced trade relationship with China.
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The ancient Silk Roads were never purely Chinese, he said.
Macron plans to seek a "strategic partnership" with Beijing on a number of issues, including terrorism and climate change, and make Xi an ally in implementing the Paris accord after the United States withdrew from the deal. "By definition, these roads can only be shared".
Macron will be travelling with a delegation of business executives hoping for a bonanza of contracts, including from AccorHotels, LVMH, Airbus and BNP Paribas.
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France has a 30-billion-euro ($36 billion) trade deficit with China.
"That you have chosen China as your first destination on your first visit to Asia shows the high importance you attach to the relationship's development", he said.
A retired horse named Vesuve de Brekka is an 8-year-old brown bay gelding who joined the Republican Guard in 2012.
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In an attempt to impress Mr Xi, Parisian officials said it was the first time that a French president had offered a horse to a foreign leader.