BEIJING (AP) — China's President Xi Jinping and France's President Francois Hollande pledged to push for a world free of domination by any superpower Thursday as the French leader visited the Chinese capital on a mission to boost trade amid his country's worsening economic woes.
Both leaders stressed their desire for a "multipolar" world that would dilute Washington's influence — though they did not mention the U.S. in their comments.
"China and France are both great countries with a strong sense of independence," Xi said at a news conference, adding that the two countries would "actively promote a multipolar world and the democratization of international relations."
Xi and Hollande, who is traveling with a delegation representing scores of French businesses, spoke to reporters after meeting at Beijing's Great Hall of the People.
"China and France both want a multipolar world. We want there to be a balance. We refuse a world of powers, and of superpowers," Hollande said. "When China and France agree on a position, we can drive the world."
Officials from the two countries signed an agreement for China to buy 60 planes from France-based Airbus. French businesses hit by domestic declines are hoping for additional deals in China in areas including car making, nuclear energy and food exports. France registered a $34 billion trade deficit with China last year and accounts for less than 2 percent of the Asian giant's foreign trade.
"There is an imbalance in our foreign trade, and we hope to correct that," Hollande said. "Not by reducing our investment and exports, but by increasing them further, and we will be discussing this throughout our meetings and this trip."
At a second news conference later in the day, Hollande said his talks with Xi had touched on human rights and the recent string of self-immolations among Tibetans protesting Chinese rule.
"Let me say again, we discussed all the issues. Moreover, it was in a very frank and mutually respectful manner. This entirely serves the friendly relations between the people of our countries," he said.
China is extremely sensitive to criticisms of its human rights record and uses diplomatic and economic means to retaliate against countries it sees as lacking in respect. China lashed out at France after Hollande's predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, met with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in 2008.
Chinese officials have also shunned high-level exchanges with British counterparts since Prime Minister David Cameron met the Dalai Lama last May, and ties with Norway remain frozen following the awarding of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiaobo.
The French delegation visits Shanghai on Friday.