Sat. May 25th, 2024

French President Emmanuel Macron was on Monday to host Xi Jinping for a state visit, seeking to persuade the Chinese leader to shift positions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and also imbalances in global trade.

Xi’s first visit to Europe since 2019 will also see him hold talks in Serbia and Hungary. Xi has said he wants to find peace in Ukraine even if analysts do not expect major changes in Chinese policy. 

Xi’s choice of France as the sole major European power on his itinerary indicates the importance the leader of the one-party Communist state of more than 1.4 billion people accords to Macron as an EU powerbroker over two years into Russia’s invasion. 

Macron and Xi are to hold a day of talks in Paris on Monday from 0830 GMT.

These include a trilateral meeting involving EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen followed by a state banquet hosted by Macron at the Elysee presidential palace.

Tuesday will see Macron take Xi, who is accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan, to the Pyrenees mountains to an area he used to visit as a boy for a day of less public and more intimate talks.

In an op-ed for Le Figaro daily, Xi said that he wanted to work with the international community to find ways to solve the conflict sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while emphasising that China was “neither a party nor a participant”.

“We hope that peace and stability will return quickly to Europe, and intend to work with France and the entire international community to find good paths to resolve the crisis,” he wrote.

Von der Leyen said she will press for “fair” competition with China in global trade, adding that in previous talks with Xi she had “made clear that the current imbalances in market access are not sustainable and need to be addressed”.

“We have been very clear-eyed about our relationship with China, which is one of the most complex, but also one of the most important,” she said.

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