Beijing: France has become the first country to join China to jointly build seven infrastructure projects worth over USD 1.7 billion in Africa, South East Asia and Eastern Europe, in a boost for Beijing in the face of its growing hostility with the US.

Following up on the recent virtual meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, the two countries signed the Fourth Round China-France Third-Party Market Cooperation Pilot Project List.

The list includes seven projects in areas like infrastructure, environmental protection and new energy with a total value of over USD 1.7 billion, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here on Friday.

The implementation of key projects in Africa, Southeast Asia, Central and Eastern Europe are demonstrative of the cooperation between Beijing and Paris, China’s top planning body National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a press release.

France is the first country to establish the third-party market intergovernmental cooperation mechanism with China, the NDRC said.

The French move to join China, whose Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) drew flack for its debt diplomacy, is being regarded as an image boost for Beijing in the face of its growing hostility with the US.

The US has been highly critical of the BRI projects, which has left scores of lower- and middle-income countries (LMIC) saddled with “hidden debts”. In 2021, the United States announced plans to invest in five to 10 large infrastructure projects around the world as part of a broader G-7 initiative to counter China’s BRI.

For the next step, China and France will create conditions and build platforms for companies to carry out cooperation in third-party markets and implement more demonstration projects for the benefit of all parties, Wang said.

“French enterprises have a unique advantage in advanced manufacturing, environmental protection and engineering construction, while Chinese firms have accumulated rich experience in basic infrastructure construction, energy, equipment building and the internet. Enterprises from both countries are complementary, and have a huge potential for third-party market cooperation,” the NDRC said.

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