Senior Chinese leader He Guoqiang on Monday hailed language and cultural exchanges between China and France as the base for deepening bilateral relations. In his opening speech during the inauguration of the Chinese Language Year program, He, a senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said people-to-people exchange was the base and guide to deepen relations between the two countries. Rapid development in Sino-Franco culture exchanges was an important and irreplaceable propellant for the development of their comprehensive strategic partnership, he said. Language is a vital carrier of civilization and an important tool to communicate between different cultures, He said, adding that French and Chinese, two languages with long history and deep culture, have built a bridge of dialogue and understanding between both peoples who geographically live so far away from each other. According to He, over years of joint work, the language and culture exchange between China and France is at its prime period in history. He believed that the Chinese Language Year program would offer abundant opportunities for more and more French people, notably the youth, to learn the Chinese language and understand the Chinese culture, subsequently strengthen the friendship between both peoples, and promote the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two states. French ex-President Valery Giscard d\'Estaing, who inaugurated the Chinese Language Year program together with He, stressed the significance of the large-scale language program, saying it would surely benefit mutual understanding and friendship of the two peoples. Citing himself as an example, the ex-president said he started learning Chinese in 1980 in order to know better about China\'s history and culture, and he wished the Chinese Language Year in France to be a great success. The cross language year program, which includes \"The Chinese Language Year (2011)\" in France and then \"The French Language Year (2012)\" in China, was initiated by Chinese President Hu Jintao and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in November 2010. He, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC, started his four-day goodwill visit to France in Nice on Saturday and arrived in Paris on Sunday evening. On Monday morning, during a visit to a plant of Paris-based Suez Environnement, a leading French company in water treatment and waste management, He said China has attached great importance to environmental protection, and would like to learn advanced technologies from France in environment-friendly sectors.