Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang began a three-day visit to France Tuesday dominated by climate talks and the sealing of dozens of economic accords between the two nations.
The visit kicked off with Li announcing Beijing's long-awaited pledge to curb carbon emissions ahead of a year-end UN conference in Paris tasked with producing a world pact on curbing climate change.
"China's carbon dioxide emission will peak by around 2030 and China will work hard to achieve the target at an even earlier date," Li's office said in a statement as he lunched with President Francois Hollande.
The statement said carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP will drop 60-65 percent over 2005 levels by 2030, and the share of non-fossil fuel in primary energy consumption will grow to about 20 percent.
Paris is hoping the Chinese announcement will give impetus to the global climate negotiations which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday were moving at a "snail's pace".
Li is due to meet his counterpart Manuel Valls before holding a press conference later Tuesday.
France is rolling out the red carpet for Li with "very high level" protocol treatment on his visit, according to diplomatic sources.
His trip comes six months after Valls travelled to Beijing and called for more French products to be exported to China to "rebalance" trade between the two countries.
China's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Chao said the mutual visits showed the "high level" of relations between the two countries.
France, which is struggling with weak growth and record high unemployment, imports two and a half times as much from China as flows in the opposite direction. In 2013, Paris ran a 26 billion euro ($29 billion) deficit with the Asian giant.
- 53 deals on the table -
Some 53 commercial and industrial accords are expected to be inked on Li's trip including "significant contracts for tens of billions of euros" with European aerospace giant Airbus, energy group Alstom, French container shipping company CMA-CGM and French electricity giant Engie, said sources close to Valls.
Paris is in particular hoping that Chinese companies will order the Airbus A330 and A330-Neo in return for Airbus investment in a centre at its Tianjin base which will allow China to "customise" the A330s they buy.
The two nations are also expected to sign an agreement on joint infrastructure projects to be carried out in Asian and African countries.
China, which has too many factories and is struggling with a slowdown in domestic demand, is pushing its companies to seek new markets abroad and could take advantage of French experience in these markets.
French authorities will also raise prickly human rights issues with their guest, by expressing "concerns" over new legislation being drawn up in Beijing such as a law governing NGOs, an anti-terrorist law and a law on national security, said a diplomatic source.
On Wednesday Li will head to the southern city of Marseille where he will be met by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who has visited China several times in the past year.
He will wrap up his tour of France in the southern city of Toulouse where he and Valls will attend a France-China seminar attended by hundreds of Chinese enterprises. Li will also visit the Airbus headquarters in the city.