- It was not a surprise that China used Macron’s visit and business agreements to further rifts inside Europe and those between the EU and the US.
- It would be difficult to see a significant improvement in China-EU relations if the EU leaders do not change their stance on the Ukraine war.
- The trip has certainly left Beijing assured that the two largest EU countries, France and Germany, are keen to keep economic exchange and political dialogue going.
This week, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen travelled to Beijing for an important meeting that could have a major impact on the strategic relationship between the world’s two largest economies. European leaders have deepened their confrontation with China over human rights, highly sensitive technology, and Beijing’s unwillingness to denounce Russia’s aggression in Ukraine as a result of US pressure. But they also want to maintain prosperous economic ties with Europe’s largest trading partner.
For Macron, the visit to China is hailed as a distraction from the violent demonstrations and widespread strikes that have erupted in the country in response to his divisive pension reforms. Despite insisting that no arms should be provided, the French President would try to convince Chinese President Xi Jinping to maintain neutrality more so to talk with Ukrainian President Zelensky.
According to a top official in the French presidential palace, which was published in Le Monde newspaper that the administration is “clear-eyed” about the geopolitical tensions brought on by both Russia’s conflict in Ukraine and China and the United States’ strategic rivalry. He added that France and the EU have their own interests to defend and that “we are approaching a time of extremely severe tensions in the international environment.”
After Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to Russia and his support to Russia in various aspects of the relationship, which surprised several of her EU member states, Von der Leyen escalated her criticism of China. In her most recent speech, she warned that China was “increasingly repressive at home and more powerful abroad.” A strategy document issued by the European Union in 2019 described China as a “cooperative partner, economic competitor and opponent of the system.” Since then, Europe has paid more attention than ever to China’s development as a major strategic adversary of the West. But von der Leyen struggled to stress that Europe did not intend to emulate Washington’s “decoupling” approach, but rather to “dissolve” relations with China. European leaders have persuaded Chinese Communist Party President Xi Jinping to influence Moscow to end the conflict in Ukraine, which was also the focus of a meeting between Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Xi in Beijing last week. Xi wants Europe to join him in pushing for a political solution. The US would be concerned if it agreed to a deal that would be unfavourable to Ukraine.
America and Europe were the targets of the CCP’s glamour campaign. European commitments to resist US efforts to suppress access to the CCP’s dual-use technology or US attempts to strengthen alliances to deter aggression, will prove very difficult for the US. According to a recent agreement between France and Britain to coordinate naval carrier deployments in Asia. The EU recently reached an agreement on using legal remedies by Member States against economic pressure from other countries, including the introduction of Tariffs or Export Restrictions. The US wants European leaders to support US policy positions rather than over-complicating them. Many European leaders, including Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez and French President Emmanuel Macron, have cut bilateral ties after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s visit to China in November 2022.
Since 1998, his annual EU-China summit has become a tradition between the EU and China. The last summit he held in April 2022 was via videoconference, but no information was released about the 2023 summit. The EU-China summit has long been marred by controversy. Her 2021 EU-China Summit (CAI) has been cancelled following the EU Parliament’s decision to suspend her EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement. The 23rd summit also failed to yield meaningful results in the areas of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, economic pressures and dealing with human rights.
The outcome of the meet
During the first of several high-level discussions, which took place in Beijing, the French president encouraged Xi Jinping to “bring Russia back to reason” about the conflict in Ukraine. Before their meeting, Emmanuel Macron stood next to Xi outside the Great Hall of the People and said, “The Russian aggression in Ukraine has delivered a blow to [world] stability.” “I know I can rely on you to return Russia to reason and everyone to the bargaining table,” he said.
China supports Europe’s strategic autonomy, and Xi stated in Beijing that he sought to prevent an escalation while pointing out that Europe was an “independent pole in a multipolar world. “The remarks were made following a meeting between Xi and Macron on Thursday. The visit was intended to strengthen both leaders’ credentials as statesmen who could bridge political divides. From French farm to Chinese table is the name of the trade pact that the nations are developing, according to Xi.
The Conference for a New Global Financial Accord, which France is hosting in June, was another topic brought up by Macron, who stated that China should play a significant role in addressing the issues of financing the fight against poverty and the climate problem.
It was not a surprise that China attempted to use the trip and business agreements to further rifts inside Europe and those between the EU and the US. The main disagreement appears to be between the more sceptic commission and some eastern European nations on the one side, and a more commercially-driven France and Germany on the other when it comes to engagement and cooperation with China.
It would be difficult to see a significant improvement in China-EU relations if Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who visited China in November, do not change their stance on the Ukraine war. But they certainly leave Beijing assured that the two largest EU countries are keen to keep economic exchange and political dialogue going.
The visit came on the heels of significant progress in the EU’s militarization of Ukraine. On March 20, the EU announced a “historic decision” to send 1 million artillery shells to Ukraine within the next year. Under the acceleration agreement, the European Union will facilitate joint purchases of new ammunition and encourage member states to share ammunition from their own stockpiles. Originally a post-World War II peace project, this is the first time the European Union has purchased ammunition for a country at war. Macron and Von der Leyen can further fulfil their historic announcement of arms support to Ukraine by blocking President Xi Jinping from delivering arms to an ailing Russia.
(The author is a Post Graduate student in International Relations at Amity University, Raipur. She writes articles and research papers regularly on international affairs and geopolitics)