Xi Jinping’s European Tour: Aiming to Repair Strained Relations

Xi Jinping begins first European tour in five years in France | Politics News

Chinese President Xi Jinping has embarked on his first European tour in five years, commencing his journey in France. The trip is anticipated to be dominated by the ongoing war in Russia and Ukraine and economic strains between Beijing and the European Union (EU).

Xi’s Agenda in Europe

Xi Jinping’s European tour, scheduled to continue until the end of this week, is expected to focus on several key areas. For example, he aims to repair relations in Europe, which have been strained due to China’s support for Russia’s war on Ukraine. Moreover, he hopes to blunt the EU’s economic security agenda vis-à-vis China and showcase Beijing’s strong ties with its stalwart partners Serbia and Hungary. These goals were outlined by Matt Geracim, the assistant director of the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub.

First Stop: France

France is the inaugural destination of Xi’s European tour. He is slated to hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Paris on May 6. Subsequently, he will travel south to the Pyrenees. This visit coincides with the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Beijing and Paris, with France being the first Western country to formally recognize the People’s Republic of China.

Political Discussions Amid Global Security Issues

The visit also comes at a critical juncture in global security, with the war in Ukraine entering its third year and Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza. Therefore, these two conflicts will feature prominently in the talks, particularly the Ukraine issue, where Beijing has professed neutrality but has not condemned Moscow for its full-scale invasion. Macron is expected to urge Xi to put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, highlighting the existential implications of the war for Europe.

Economic Concerns and Chinese Business Practices

Aside from the Ukraine war, Europe is also concerned about Chinese business practices. The EU has initiated an investigation into China’s subsidies for electric vehicle manufacturers, amid concerns that such payments are undermining competition and harming European companies. Macron has expressed his intention to discuss the need to safeguard European manufacturers and industries during his talks with Xi.

Human Rights Concerns

Despite the warm reception for Xi in Paris, campaigners for Tibet and Xinjiang were also present on the streets of the capital. The EU imposed targeted sanctions on certain Chinese officials and companies over Xinjiang in March 2021, prompting anger in Beijing. Human Rights Watch has urged Macron to address these issues during his talks with Xi and call for the release of those arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

In conclusion, President Xi Jinping’s European tour comes at a time of heightened global tension. His discussions with European leaders will not only be a test of diplomacy but will also shape the trajectory of China’s relationship with Europe amidst the backdrop of economic, political, and human rights concerns.