PARIS - France and China begin year-long celebrations next week to mark 50 years since Paris became the first Western power to recognise the Communist government, paving the way for Beijing's global acceptance.
Both sides will highlight former French president and World War II resistance hero Charles De Gaulle's "visionary" decision during the Cold War to launch full diplomatic relations, breaking ranks with the United States and other Western powers.
The January 27, 1964 announcement came against the backdrop of the nuclear missile crisis, the rupture between China and the Soviet Union and the Vietnam war.
"It's in this context that De Gaulle took these initiatives, rising above the division between the two blocs," said historian and China specialist Francois Godemont from the European Council on Foreign Relations.
"This rapprochement gave France a certain role in Asia in relation to the United States," Godemont said.
Despite this, experts agree that economic ties between the Asian giant and the eurozone's second economy remain well below potential.
The French recognition came at an opportune time for Beijing, which had split with the Soviet Union on ideological grounds and because of conflicting national interests, thereby fracturing the international communist movement.
"The decision not only shook up the bipolar order at the heart of the Cold War but also was a breakthrough in the building of a multipolar world," said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.