With a generous treatment of Macron, China’s Xi urged France to “confront” the United States

GUANGZHOU/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping has given French President Emmanuel Macron an unusually big welcome on a state visit that some analysts see as a sign of Beijing’s growing offensive to court key allies within the European Union to stand up to it. United State.

The two leaders visited southern China together on Friday, where Macron was scheduled to drink Chinese tea with Xi at his father’s former home in Guangzhou, the capital of the economic and manufacturing powerhouse in Guangdong province.

Such forays by Xi with visiting leaders are rare. Diplomats say it underscores the importance Beijing places on this relationship with a key member of the European Union as it seeks support against what Xi called “total containment, encirclement and suppression” by the United States.

“All of China’s foreign policy attacks have the US-China relationship in the background… So working with any country, especially medium or big powers, like France, is something they will try to do to counter the US,” said Zhao Suisheng. Professor of China Studies and Foreign Policy at the University of Denver.

Noah Barkin, an analyst with the Rhodium Group, said China’s main goal is to prevent Europe from allying more closely with the United States.

“In this sense, Macron is perhaps Beijing’s most important partner in Europe,” he said. Macron is often considered by diplomats to be an important driver of major policies within the European Union.

Macron traveled to China with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, both of whom pressed China on Ukraine, but failed to extract any public shifts in attitude from Xi.

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However, Macron received the full red carpet treatment.

Von der Leyen called China “oppressive” in a speech of criticism before her trip, and put up a boorish figure at times in Beijing, with low-key greetings at the airport and not being invited to some state events with Xi and Macron.

China’s state-backed Global Times newspaper said in an editorial on Thursday: “It is clear to everyone that being a strategic subordinate to Washington is a dead end. Making the China-France relationship a bridge of cooperation between China and Europe is mutually beneficial to both sides and to the world.”


Some of Xi’s magic worked, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a former French prime minister who traveled extensively to China, told Reuters on the sidelines of the deal’s signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People.

“Isn’t diplomacy, at one time or another, a kind of flattery?” He said. “There’s always a little bit of that in human relationships. Every side plays with that.”

In Washington, China’s diplomatic engagement with France is viewed with a degree of suspicion.

China will enjoy a realignment away from Ukraine that brings it closer to Europe economically as relations with the United States sour, people familiar with the U.S. government’s thinking said, but such a shift is unlikely at this point.

Washington is taking a wait-and-see approach to European dealings with Beijing over Ukraine, according to the people, who declined to be named. On Thursday, Macron urged Beijing to talk reasonedly with Russia over the war in Ukraine, while von der Leyen said Xi had expressed willingness to talk to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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Xi did not mention a possible conversation with Zelensky in Chinese official reports of his remarks after the meetings.

Analyst Barkin said Macron did not appear to be getting much from the trip.

“Macron seems to think he can lure Xi to change his approach to the war,” he said. “He gave Xi a series of gifts—denouncing segregation as a trap, bringing a huge business delegation with him, and reaffirming his support for strategic autonomy—without getting much of anything in return.”

China’s courtship of Macron is part of a flurry of diplomatic moves this year as it tries to wriggle out of containment by the United States amid disagreements over Taiwan, the Ukraine war and US-led restrictions on technology exports.

China has increased its diplomatic spending by 12.2 percent this year, and leaders and senior officials from Singapore, Malaysia, Spain and Japan have visited over the past few weeks.

China helped broker a surprise détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran in March, with Beijing presenting itself as a peacemaker in the Middle East driven by its desire to forge a multipolar world.

Engagement between China and the EU will continue in the coming weeks, with Foreign Policy Coordinator Josep Borrell and the German Foreign Minister scheduled to arrive in Beijing.

“China and Europe can still be partners,” said Wang Yue, director of the Center for European Studies at Renmin University in Beijing. “Instead of competitors or systemic competitors.”

Additional reporting by Trevor Honeycutt in Washington and Yu Lun-tian in Beijing. Writing by James Pomfret, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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