HomeFOREIGNMacron Calls for European-Chinese Unity Amidst Ukraine Crisis

Macron Calls for European-Chinese Unity Amidst Ukraine Crisis

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Afor Kenneth 

French President Emmanuel Macron urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to collaborate closely with Europe in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and to adhere to fair global trade regulations as Xi embarked on a state visit to France.

This marks Xi’s first visit to Europe since 2019, including stops in Serbia and Hungary. While Xi has expressed a desire for peace in Ukraine, analysts anticipate limited shifts in Chinese policy.

However, Xi’s decision to prioritize France in his European itinerary underscores Macron’s significance as an EU powerbroker amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

During a trilateral meeting with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, Macron emphasized the critical importance of coordinating with Beijing on major crises, including Ukraine, and called for equitable trade rules between Europe and China.

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“The future of our continent will very clearly depend on our ability to continue to develop relations with China in a balanced manner,” Macron said.

In an op-ed for Le Figaro daily, Xi Jinping expressed his commitment to collaborating with the international community to seek solutions to the conflict resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He reiterated that China maintains a stance of neither being a party to nor a participant in the conflict.

“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 stated her intention to advocate for “fair” competition with China in global trade, emphasizing that she had previously communicated to Xi Jinping that the existing disparities in market access are untenable and require resolution.

“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.

A primary focus for Macron will be to caution Xi about the risks associated with supporting Russia, particularly amid concerns among Western officials that Moscow is utilizing Chinese machine tools in arms manufacturing.

Despite the invasion, Beijing’s relationship with Moscow has seemingly strengthened, prompting the West to urge China, above all, to refrain from providing weapons to Russia and potentially altering the conflict’s balance.

“It is in our interest to get China to weigh in on the stability of the international order,” Macron said in an interview with the Economist published on Thursday.

In the same vein as von der Leyen, Macron emphasized the significance of trade in the discussions, highlighting Europe’s obligation to safeguard its “strategic interests” in its economic interactions with China.

Macron’s remarks come after his 2023 visit, during which he stirred mixed reactions by asserting that Europe should avoid being drawn into a confrontation between China and the United States, particularly concerning Taiwan.

Despite China’s claims over the island, which it considers part of its territory, Macron refrained from taking a confrontational stance. Human rights organizations are urging Macron to address human rights concerns during the talks, including China’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority and the detention of numerous journalists.

“President Macron should make it clear to Xi Jinping that Beijing’s crimes against humanity come with consequences for China’s relations with France,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch.

Reporters Without Borders condemned the visit, symbolizing their protest by placing a truck in central Paris displaying the names of 119 journalists allegedly detained by China and labeling Xi as “one of the great predators of press freedom.”

On Tuesday, Macron will accompany Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan to the Pyrenees mountains, where they will engage in more private discussions in an area familiar to Macron from his childhood.

However, analysts doubt Macron’s ability to influence the Chinese leader significantly, despite the grand reception and the scenic visit to the Col du Tourmalet, situated over 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) above sea level.

Serbia and Hungary, the other two destinations on Xi’s tour, are perceived as being more sympathetic to Moscow in Europe. Janka Oertel, director of the Asia program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, suggests that Macron’s messages on trade and Ukraine are unlikely to significantly impact Chinese behavior.

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