French EU China

French Prez, EU Chief To Meet Chinese Prez Today

French EU China

French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are set to arrive in China on Wednesday for a three-day state visit that will see them meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, reported Al Jazeera.

Macron and US President Joe Biden agreed in a telephone call ahead of the French leader’s trip to engage China to hasten the end of the war in Ukraine, the Elysee Palace said on Wednesday.
“The two leaders have mentioned their joint willingness to engage China to accelerate the end of the war in Ukraine and take part in building sustainable peace in the region,” Macron’s office said in a statement.

Macron is determined to carve out a distinct role for Europe that avoids America’s confrontation with an assertive China, and convinced that there is a place for China in ending the war in Ukraine.

Macron will be accompanied by a delegation of more than 50 CEOs and meet with the French business community, but all eyes will be on how he and von der Leyen discuss the war in Ukraine with the Chinese leadership, reported Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile von der Leyen during a speech in Brussels last week publicly criticised Beijing’s “no limits” ties with Moscow in the face of an “atrocious and illegal invasion of Ukraine”.

“Any peace plan which would in effect consolidate Russian annexations is simply not a viable plan. We have to be frank on this point,” von der Leyen said, while also taking aim at China’s increasingly assertive posture on the South China Sea, the Chinese-Indian border and Taiwan, reported Al Jazeera.

“How China continues to interact with Putin’s war will be a determining factor for EU-China relations going forward,” she said.

Beijing said it was “disappointed” by her speech, according to its European Union ambassador Fu Cong.

China has so far not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It has avoided use of the word “war” to describe the Russian assault.

It has embraced a “no-limits,” anti-Western partnership with Moscow, cemented last month by President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia and the joint declaration of a “new era” freed of what the two countries see as American dominance, reported The New York Times (NYT).

“The primary issue that Macron and von der Leyen will probably want to push on is to help get some support from China in dealing with Russia and to help advance on that front,” Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy, an associate research fellow at Sweden’s Institute for Security and Development Policy, told Al Jazeera.

“Realistically, I don’t think we can expect much, but I think clearly everyone agrees that that’s the priority.”

At the G20 summit in November, Macron called for China to play a “greater mediation role” in the war but Beijing has yet to advance its role beyond issuing a 12-point peace plan that has received a lukewarm response in Kyiv and Western capitals, reported Al Jazeera.

It is to be noted that Macron is facing protest over his decision to raise the French retirement age. Macron’s trip is his first to China since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, when Beijing effectively shut its borders to travel. The French leader last visited the country in 2019.

His trip follows one made by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in November but it has already taken a different tone.

Scholz’s trip was widely criticised in Europe as too conciliatory towards Beijing, with the German leader’s efforts to shore up the country’s business interests taking precedence over pushing China to join the negotiating table over Ukraine.

EU-China relations have deteriorated sharply in recent years. Apart from disputes over China’s claims in the South China Sea and crackdowns in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, Beijing’s attempts to punish EU member states like Lithuania for engaging with Taiwan and tit-for-tat sanctions on European parliamentarians have not gone over well.

In 2021, the 27-country bloc put a significant trade and investment deal with China on ice amid growing tensions between the sides.

Moreover, the United States has been dismissive of any Chinese role in Ukrainian peacemaking. It waved away a vague 12-point Chinese plan put forward in February. (ANI)

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