Lyon Conference: China’s New Silk Road & It’s Potential for Europe

Lyon Conference: China’s New Silk Road & It’s Potential for Europe

24 Oct 2016

Panelists at the Lyon Schiller Institute Conference.

A summary of the excellent seminar in Lyon on October 19th, co-organized by the Schiller Institute and the Club China EMLyon FOREVER, an association of alumni from the Lyon Ecole de Management (EM), a prestigious national business school which also runs a campus in Shanghai, below. The list of speakers included Alain Galliano, vice-president in charge of international relations of the Lyon Metropole, Helga Zepp-LaRouche, president of the Schiller Institute, Professor Shi Ze from the CIIS in China, Christine Bierre, editor in chief of Nouvelle Solidarité, the newspaper of Solidarité & Progrès, and Jean Christophe Vautrin, president of the Club China EM Lyon FOREVER.

This seminar was part of a double pronged offensive of the Schiller Institute to get European countries, France and Germany in particular, to join China’s New Silk Roads project. For this aim, conferences were organized at two highly symbolic cities: Essen, nearby Duisburg, in Germany, and Lyon in France. Duisburg, the largest internal port in Europe, is the first stop of the train coming three times a week from Wuhan, China; Lyon is the terminus, as it was on the ancient Silk Road. This train transports silica for tires, electronic equipment, LED lamps, and sports apparel from China. It returns loaded with wines, cosmetics and foods. The arrival of the train is, a small miracle, covering a distance of 11,300 kms, crossing six countries, changing locomotives eight times, undergoing three transshipments!

When the train arrived in Lyon for the first time, in April, if was received by Mr. Galliano, officially in charge of the train. Unfortunately because of urgent professional obligations, he was unable to attend to our conference, but his endorsement contributed to making the event a success.


Moderator Odile Mojon handed the podium over to Helga Zepp-LaRouche for the keynote, which from the beginning put the challenge to the French at the right level: “What would Charles de Gaulle do today, to safeguard and protect the French people from the unprecedented dangers in the world today, namely the twin threats of potential nuclear confrontation between the United States and Russia on the one side, and the immediate possibility of a meltdown of the transatlantic financial system?”

Since these dangers are the result of human politics, she said, they can be overcome by choosing an entirely different political course. Zepp-LaRouche presented LaRouche’s four cardinal principles to solve those problems, and then proceeded to describe “the unprecedented strategic realignment among nations, which has created completely new options for world politics.”

China’s breathtaking economic development, condensing in 40 years what other industrialized nations did in 200 years, and becoming a world leader in fast trains systems, digitization of the industry and electronics. After lifting 700 million out of poverty China just issued a white paper calling for the world to overcome poverty by 2020.

China’s New Silk Road is not only transport and exchange of goods, she said, but exchange of scientific knowledge, technologies and culture for the transformation of the nations involved. The type of cooperation it has developed among the 70 participating countries includes a “comprehensive plan for scientific cooperation, joint labs, technology transfer centers, Science & Technology parks, and exchange programs in China for training for 150 000 S & T personnel and 5000 students. At the G20 summit, president Xi Jinping called for “an innovation based strategy,” based on “scientific and technological development.”

She went through the breathtaking series of summits, (G20, Vladivostok, ASEAN) which, in less than six weeks, concluded with an enormous amount of economic deals, and listed all the financial institutions created to finance those projects. This has created a situation where “the center of world politics has shifted very clearly to Asia.”

After attacking the “Thucydides trap” mentality dominating the West’s oligarchic elites, she came back to de Gaulle, a patriot and a world citizen: “I am certain he would passionately embrace the idea of overcoming poverty through the global extension of the New Silk Road into a World Land-Bridge.” She cited his wonderful speech to the German youth, of 1962, talking about that “obscure force” which causes material things to undergo rapid transformations and of scientific discoveries which improve continuously the physical conditions of man. A progress that becomes a common good, and contributes to the fostering of the beautiful, the just and the good.”

Helga noted the “deep affinity” between this European humanist tradition and the notion of continuous self-perfection of man developed by Confucianism. What is our common aim today, she asked? Join hands to industrialize Africa, through extension of the Silk Road, and make sure that all children of the planet have access to universal education.


Professor Shi Ze explained further what the aim of the Silk Road is, and how it applies to Europe, to Germany and France. And, during the discussion period he stressed several times, that this project for Europe is no longer just a concept, but that this concept is now on a realization phase. Europeans, he indicated, should not hesitate too long because the offer will not remain open forever…

Shi Ze explained that this project is not simply a copy of the old Silk Road. It takes what was positive of the old Silk Road, but to apply it to the world today as a strategy for cooperation and peace. China wants to write a new chapter of its opening to the world. The Silk Road is both “opening” and “inclusion,” “sovereignty and mutual interest.” The cultural concept is that of harmony in multiplicity.

We want to correct some errors of comprehension concerning the Silk Road project. This is not a “going it alone” project of China’s, but the creation by China of an open platform which, through the mobility of its capital, will serve the world. It is not the idea of moving out to the rest of the world, but a combination of moving out and moving in. It is also not a geographical strategy, not a belt in the ordinary sense of that word, but an inclusive international development platform.

Since Aug. 1st, 2014, twenty container trains have come to Europe from interior China. In comparison to maritime trade, the trip is reduced by 15 days, which reduces costs and frees capital for a better utilization.

Professor Shi Ze expressed the wish that the Juncker Plan of EU315 billion could be connected to the New Silk Road project. The aim is to renovate, between Europe and China, the railway networks, airports, roads, maritime ports, oil and gas pipelines, electricity, and telecommunications.

The role of China has changed in recent times, said Professor Shi Ze. China is no longer just a commercial power, but an investor state. This creates an enormous potential for cooperation between China and Europe. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, and others, desire a financial collaboration with China. There are already 700 billion yuan in swaps between the Europeans and the Chinese.

De Gaulle and the Sino-French Partnership

In France, Professor Shi Ze stressed the closeness of the partnership to France, due to the fact that de Gaulle opened diplomatic relations with China, 10 years before the other advanced countries.

He stated over and over again, China’s interest in making joint investments with France, such as its contract with Great Britain for two nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point. He stressed over and over again, the China’s interest in making joint investments in Africa, on infrastructure, energy, transports, as called for by a joint statement signed in 2015.

At the Schiller conference in Essen, Oct. 21, he stressed that Germany has become China’s main trading partner in Europe. In 2015, the volume of exchanges reached EU163 billion and since 2010, and 1,700 Chinese companies have opened in Germany.

The strong points of cooperation are foreign exchanges and manufacturing. To connect Chinese efficiency with German quality, to harmonize the Made in China and the Made in Germany, is the objective of the Silk Road policy. Building roads and pipelines, agriculture, along the entire Silk Road, will create opportunities for the German companies.

From both France and Germany, China wants to take advantage of their long experience in urbanization: 75% of the European population lives in urban centers; in China only 52.6%.


Christine Bierre went through the status of today’s France-China policies, and proposed, in the spirit of Leibniz’s grand Eurasian design of the 17th century, the important future areas of collaboration between both countries.

Paradoxically, she said, Hollande’s policies towards China, seem much better than those towards France. Meetings between high-level officials of both countries have established a close coordination between both states. A privileged ally of China since 1964, thanks to de Gaulle, France is already on a win-win alliance sharing with China some of its high technologies in exchange for “accompanying” China’s strong development.

Airbus commercial jets are being assembled already in China. As for nuclear power, after 30 years of close cooperation, China and France have enlarged cooperation to the entire nuclear cycle. In June 30th 2015, both countries signed a statement calling for joint construction of nuclear power stations in third countries, in the model of the Hinkley Point agreement.

A strong collaboration has developed also in the struggle against air, water and soil pollution which the Chinese have made into a priority. The two French water giants, Veolia and Suez, are particularly engaged in the domain of fighting “toxic waste.”

Future Collaboration

It is future collaborations, however, that interest us the most, said Christine Bierre, who outlined four priorities:

1) Space. France must get back into space exploration, with the Moon and Mars as objectives, and manned spaceflight. Highly interesting on September 15th, a “Cardiospace” mission was deployed out of the Chinese orbital module Tiangong 2, aimed at studying the adaptation of the human cardiovascular system to microgravity and the impact on astronauts’ bodies as they come back to Earth.

2) 4th generation of nuclear power and fusion. France should adopt the Chinese system of exploring all the options of the “nuclear of the future”: fusion, breeder and pebble bed reactors, thorium molten salt fast reactors (MSFR), hybrid fission/fusion reactors. On the most promising prospect of thorium (MSFR), there should be increased cooperation between the Chinese team and a French team in Grenoble CNRS-LPSC who are pioneering on this question. On fusion the existing collaboration between French and Chinese teams at the Cadarache center and at Heifei, (Tore-Supra West and East), in the context of ITER, should be strengthened.

3) Joint Franco-Chinese projects in Africa. A joint statement signed between France and China on June 30th, 2015 organizes such joint projects in third countries, notable Africa and Asia. Emphases is put on “great projects … whose impact on the country or the region will be major, among which infrastructures, energy, support for jointly produced aircraft, urban and long course railways, agriculture and health matters.” China who wants to invest in French speaking Africa, is pressuring France who is familiar with that part of the world, to do it together. China contributes the financing, France and Europe, the technologies and the third parties formulate the demands. Negotiations are under way for the organization of a three way conference in Dakar this year, and the creation of an investment fund.

4) Finally there is the great project of modernizing the “train of the Silk Road” which arrives 3 times a week from Wuhan, but which presently has to cross six countries with different rail systems, do three transshipments and changes locomotives eight times. The urgency is to improve it, this freight train should be modernized, and have its own independent rail. This is the type of great project which would need a full cooperation between France, Germany, Europe and China, which only a Europe of fatherlands and of projects, renewing with a strong industrial policy, can finance.

A Grand Mission for France

Beyond this or that project, where France stands to gain the most in its relations to China, is in finding its own “dream”! The alliance with China must lead France to rediscover its own ideal and voluntarism to make real this metaphor of Li Keqiang in a speech in Toulouse, on July 2, 2015. When our two great nations work together, that will unleash not only a synergy of “one plus one are more than two,” but an energy comparable to that of “nuclear fusion,” which, of course is aimed at civil goals and for the cause of peace”!

Leave a Reply