China’s Xi courts Macron in bid to drive wedge between Europe and USA…
Xi Jinping is pulling out all the stops for French President Emmanuel Macron as China’s leader tries to create some distance between Europe and the United States in their approaches toward Beijing.
During the three-day visit, which kicks off Wednesday, Macron will have extensive face time with Xi. After formal meetings in Beijing on Thursday, which will also include European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Macron and Xi will head to the southern city of Guangzhou.
The excursion to meet a world leader at a second location outside the capital is rare for Xi, who normally reserves such honors for close friends like Russian President Vladimir Putin: In 2018, they took a high-speed train to Tianjin east of Beijing and watched a hockey match together.
French officials say they have sensed a special warmth from Chinese counterparts ahead of the trip and they say preparations have been smoother and friendlier than previous visits by Macron.
With former German Chancellor Angela Merkel no longer in power, Xi now sees Macron as someone who can push the European Union toward a more moderate position on China than the U.S. In addition to having an influential voice among NATO allies, France is also a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council — and Macron in particular has sought to engage with Putin to find a diplomatic solution to end the war in Ukraine.
“He’s certainly, from the Chinese perspective, the most important politician in Europe,” said Joerg Wuttke, head of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. “He’s definitely the point man.”
With U.S.-China relations in a tailspin, Beijing is looking to prevent Europe from joining in, particularly on measures like export controls of key technologies that would hurt growth in the world’s second-biggest economy. The EU, including Germany and France, are seeking to balance a desire to engage with China on trade and investment while still asserting what they deem core European values, including respect for human rights and territorial sovereignty in places like Ukraine.
Macron spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday about the China visit, and “they also reiterated their steadfast support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression,” according to a White House statement.
Macron, who took power in 2017, worked with Merkel previously to negotiate the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, an accord between China and the EU that was poised to take economic ties to new heights. Yet it was shelved in 2021 after the two sides clashed over sanctions imposed due to alleged human rights abuses, and now appears all but dead.
“Now that Merkel has gone, we only have Macron who knows all the background,” said Henry Wang Huiyao, founder of the Center for China and Globalization. “He’s in a better position to promote EU-China relations and France-China relations.”
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