Sunday, November 25, 2007

China Inc.

On Rue 89, Pierre Haski notes that when Sarkozy went to Washington, he took with him Rama Yade, the secretary of state for human rights, who looks striking indeed in a formal gown at a white-glove state dinner. Today he is in China, however, and has taken with him not Rama Yade, whose function might be thought to require her presence there, but Anne Lauvergeon, the head of Areva, who will sign a contract with China sealing a major deal for nuclear technology.

It is perhaps one of the many ironies of China's transformation from communist pariah into (still nominally communist) paragon of state capitalism and indispensable trading partner and banker to the nations of what used to be called the Free World that the human rights issues that used to bedevil Sino-Occidental relations must now be discussed sotto voce, at least when there is serious business to be transacted. Hypocrisy, Dr. Johnson said, is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.


Space Fission said...

It hasn't been easy for Areva to get into China. At home Sarkozy and Areva are faced with challenges from greens who want to close the nuclear plants that provide nearly 80% of the nation's electricity and the need to raise cash to pay for Areva's expansion into Asian markets.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the comment and link, Ohadi. Regular readers will know that I have been commenting on Areva, and on Sarkozy's interest in the firm, for some time now. I don't think it has been difficult for Areva to get into China. On the contrary, the Chinese want Areva's advanced technology. But they are hard bargainers, particularly when it comes to technology transfer and proprietary information, so the negotiations have been characteristically tough. As for the opposition of the Greens at home, again, one shouldn't exaggerate rhetorical challenges. Areva has long been a French national champion and under Sarkozy has been elevated to a position of supreme national champion, rivaling and perhaps surpassing Airbus.

Space Fission said...

Thanks for your response. Areva nearly lost the nuclear deal last summer when Chinese nuclear officials took a look at problems with Areva's construction of an EPR in Finland. Cost overruns and regulatory problems have since been resolved. I agree anti-nuclear opposition at home has essentially isolated itself by opting out of a national dialog on environmental policy. Problems with Airbus need to be addressed to get a product to market and reinvigorate that company. Bloomberg reports that Areva is expected to sign the nuclear deal on Monday 11/26 in China.