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Xi Jinping visits Europe to seek strategic opportunities

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Chinese President Xi Jinping, visiting Europe for the first time in five years, appears intent on seizing the opportunity to loosen the continent’s ties with the United States and create a world free from U.S. dominance.

Chinese leaders chose three countries for the visit: France, Serbia and Hungary. All three countries are more or less skeptical of the US post-war world order, see China as a necessary counterweight and are eager to strengthen Economic ties.

Xi Jinping comes amid tensions with much of Europe – China’s “unrestricted” embrace of Russia despite war in Ukraine and its surveillance state and apparent espionage that led to the recent arrests of four people in Germany. is due to arrive in France on Sunday, hoping to showcase China’s growing influence on the continent and seek a pragmatic rapprochement.

For Europe, the visit will test its delicate balancing act between China and the United States and will no doubt be viewed by Washington as a clear move by Xi to divide Western allies.

He timed his arrival in Serbia, his second stop, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo War. The mistaken attack on May 7, 1999, killed three Chinese journalists and sparked an outcry around the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, for which the White House apologized.

“Visiting Belgrade is a very economical way for Xi Jinping to ask whether the United States is really serious about international law,” said Janka Ertel, Asia program director at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, adding that NATO’s overreach is a threat to Is it a problem for other countries?”

The Chinese government continues to commemorate the Belgrade bombing and uses it as an opportunity to condemn Western hypocrisy and bullying.

“The United States has always seen itself as the world’s leader or hegemon, so China is a competitor or opponent that challenges its hegemony,” said Tu Xinquan, dean of the School of Business at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. “The EU does not have a hegemonic mentality.”

The official creed of the 27-member EU defines China as a “partner, economic competitor and systemic competitor”. If this sounds like a mouthful and perhaps an oxymoron, that’s because the continent is torn between how to balance China’s economic opportunities with national security risks, cybersecurity risks and economic risks across industries.

In March, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters that the European solution would not work. “It’s like driving to an intersection and finding that the red, yellow and green lights are on at the same time. How can you keep driving?”

Now, Xi Jinping wants to relax the green light.

To that end, Xi’s first and most important stop will be France, where President Emmanuel Macron has often advanced the Gaullist view that Europe “must not become a vassal” of the United States, like he did last month In a lecture at the Sorbonne University. The French leader insisted that the EU’s survival depended on “strategic autonomy”. Develop military resilience and become a “European power.” He rejects the concept of “equidistance” between China and the United States – France is one of America’s oldest allies – but wants to keep his options open.

All this is wonderful for Xi Jinping.

“Macron is trying to carve out a third path in the current global chaos,” said Philippe Lecoeur, a prominent French expert on relations with China. “He’s trying to maintain a balance between the two major superpowers.”

Just over a year ago, Mr. Macron was feted lavishly during a visit to China that ended with the announcement of a “global strategic partnership” between China and France. The French leader echoed China’s vision of a “multipolar” world, moving away from talk of “blocs” and “Cold War mentality.”

Now, during Xi Jinping’s visit, China praised France as a great country and expressed the hope that Sino-French relations “will always be at the forefront of China’s relations with Western countries.” Lu Shaye’s wordsChinese Ambassador to France, People’s Daily.

Mr Macron recently warned that “our Europe is mortal” and can only be saved by becoming a “sovereign nation”. He will host Xi Jinping at a state dinner in Paris on Monday, channeling his personal touch to his favorite childhood spot in the Pyrenees.

The chemistry between the two men seemed to lie essentially in a shared view that the postwar order was dying and had to be replaced by a new architecture that took into account the shift in power. The fact that Xi Jinping is almost certainly the most autocratic and repressive leader in China’s modern history, and that China’s military threat to Taiwan has intensified, does not bother the two leaders.

Macron has visited India and Brazil in the past six months, pushing France to become a fulcrum between the BRICS grouping, which includes China, and Western powers. He sees France as a bridge at a time of growing tensions between the “global South” and Western powers.

Xi Jinping will depart from France and head to the warm embrace of Serbia and Hungary. China is Serbia’s second-largest trading partner, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban supports large-scale Chinese investment and leverages Hungary’s status as a member of the European Union. Members downplayed criticism of China. Both countries are angry about American power.

Beyond these two friends of China, however, there are serious differences between Europe and Beijing, whose economy is roughly the same size in dollar terms as it was when Xi Jinping last visited the EU in 2019. China’s economy currently accounts for about 15% of China’s economy.

Last fall, the EU launched an investigation into whether Chinese-made electric cars benefited from unfair subsidies, with a decision expected this summer. That has led to tensions with Beijing and Germany, whose influence in the Chinese car market dwarfs that of other European countries. China accounts for at least half of Volkswagen’s annual profits.

German manufacturers with factories in China are concerned that any tariffs imposed by Europe could affect their exports there and trigger tit-for-tat retaliation.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will attend talks with Xi Jinping in Paris. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has had a tense relationship with Macron, dined with the French president in Paris this week. All this is clearly part of an effort to create a united European front.

However, this has always been elusive.

European anger against Russia is strongest in countries on the front lines of relations with Russia, such as Poland and the Baltic states. They are perhaps the most keen on an alliance with the United States, which Macron hopes to offset by creating a sovereign Europe. They are also the country most wary of China, which has never condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Like Scholz during his visit to China last month, Macron sees China’s influence as crucial to ending the war in Ukraine. French analysts believe that only Beijing can exert real pressure on Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, who will be sworn in for a fifth term during Xi Jinping’s European trip.

The problem, as during Macron’s visit to Beijing last year, is that China has shown little or no inclination to do so.Indeed, Mr. Xi Jinping Plans to host Mr Putin In China later this month.

“It’s hard to imagine another discussion on Ukraine,” François Godement, special adviser and resident senior fellow at the Institut Montaigne in Paris, said of the talks between Macron and Xi. “Those dice have been rolled.”

Still, there is no doubt that Mr Macron will try again to win over Mr Xi ahead of a Ukraine peace conference in Switzerland in mid-June.

On a deeper level, Macron seems certain to try to use Xi’s visit to advance an agenda that will guarantee Europe’s influence for decades to come. He is wary of the possibility that the United States could re-elect former President Donald J. Trump in November, which would have unpredictable consequences.

Dear Mr. Wang, Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, explain“As long as China and Europe join hands, bloc confrontation will not occur, the world will not fall apart, and a new Cold War will not occur.”

Despite fundamental differences in governance between China’s one-party state and Western liberal democracies, the leaders of the three European countries Xi Jinping chose to visit appeared to accept China’s statement.

Reporting by Olivia Wang in Hong Kong, Keith Bradsher in Beijing, Christopher S. Schuetze and Melissa Eddy in Berlin and Ségolène Le Stradic in Paris

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