BEIJING — Last week, China's police liaison officer in France revealed to the media that the governments in Beijing and Paris are in advanced talks to bring over Chinese police officers to patrol in the French capital, in order to protect Chinese tourists.
It's difficult to imagine that in peace time the French authorities would actually invite foreign police to be on duty on their territory. In most cases, a foreign peacekeeping force is deployed only under the unified management of the United Nations — and with a general consensus of the international community. For example, China has repeatedly sent elite civil police units to East Timor and Haiti for peacekeeping purposes. But a comparable situation in France? Not even close.
There are still precedents of foreign civil police being invited by the French government. To combat rising reports of disorder and crime among the Roma people, the French government invited Romanian policemen to help patrol Paris' streets.
Does this mean that French police are incapable of protecting foreigners in France? Obviously not. The consideration lies elsewhere.
Above all, China's business community holds rising economic potential for France, and thus the safety of Chinese visitors — who may include major investors and entrepreneurs — is vital.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between France and the People's Republic of China, which has prompted frequent high-level exchanges between China and France. Last year, just one month into Xi Jinping's presidency, French President Francois Hollande visited China, making him the first European head of state to be received by China's new government. In March this year, when President Xi made his four-state European tour in March, France was at the top of his agenda, and President Hollande received him with the highest honors.
Among the signs of growing good will is the reduction from ten to two days for the approval of a visa application filed by Chinese tourists coming to France. The ever-increasing number of Chinese tourists — over one million per year — is not something the French government can ignore.
Chinese students who want to study in France will also be given a simplified visa application procedure. Instead of making the request year-on-year, the French government will now issue a visa that can cover the necessary period for obtaining a master's degree. It also allows the applicant to stay in France for an additional year, to look for a job after obtaining the degree.
This is getting particularly attractive for Chinese students, especially when you factor in the exorbitant fees for American colleges compared to the French education system. Currently more than 10,000 Chinese students go to France for their post-graduate study each year.
But back to the question of importing police. Here, the French government seems to understand that the Chinese tourists’ top concern when visiting France is security.
Before setting off for Paris, Chinese tourists are repeatedly warned not to respond, especially near popular tourist attractions, to any strangers who approach to strike up a conversation. They are also warned not to take a photo with locals, not to accept any small gift that may be offered, and to always be cautious around street magician shows.
In certain cases that have been reported in China, even people with police uniforms turned out to be con artists. Tourist were either blackmailed or robbed of their wallets or passports. Recently, Chinese students have also been the favorite targets of burglary and even robbery inside the apartments they rented.
Whether it's for the fanfare celebration of the 50 years of Sino-France diplomatic relations, or fears that there is a real threat to Chinese visitors, the French government is obviously pulling out all the stops to cater to the citizens of what is set to become the world's largest economy.