Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Europe for the first time in five years, but this time he is not received with bells and whistles

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Europe for the first time in five years, but this time he is not received with bells and whistles
Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Europe for the first time in five years, but this time he is not received with bells and whistles
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Xi Jinping was last in Europe in 2019. He was then received with great respect in Italy, where he was given guided tours of numerous Roman sights and serenaded by none other than Andrea Bocelli. Five years later the situation is different. His five-day visit, which starts on Sunday, will not come with many bells and whistles. Europe therefore has a significantly different attitude towards the country than it did five years ago.

Xi Jinping’s first stop on European soil will be Paris, where the Chinese president will land around 4 p.m. and stay for two days. A meeting with President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is scheduled for Monday in the French capital.

Ukraine

The expectation is that the war in Ukraine will become the main topic of discussion in Paris. Due to the good ties between China and Russia, the West has often expressed its wish for Xi to make efforts and pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw. At the Elysée it can be heard that Macron will encourage Xi to “use all the levers at his disposal to contribute to a solution to the conflict”.

However, it seems unlikely that the Chinese attitude towards the war will change as a result of the visit to Europe. The bond between the two countries is too close for that and they are also economically important partners of each other. Xi has also so far failed to condemn the invasion, and Putin will travel to China later this month.

Trade

Will undoubtedly also be high on the agenda: the tense trade relations between Europe and China. France supports an investigation opened by the European Union into the dumping prices at which Chinese electric cars are offered in Europe, as well as into the state aid that companies receive for the production of those electric cars and wind turbines, solar panels, railways and more.

It already showed that China is not happy with this – it talks about “protectionism” – by launching an anti-dumping investigation into brandy. It is perhaps not coincidental that this mainly targets French cognac. Xi will probably express his dissatisfaction about this to Macron and von der Leyen. “Above all, we must insist that the Chinese authorities give us more guarantees on trade matters,” said an adviser to the Elysée Reuters. France also benefits from good trade relations with China, because there have been problems with the export of cosmetics, among other things. It is also whispered by experts that Macron hopes for Chinese investment for a battery factory for electric vehicles.

Dinner

After Monday’s talks in Paris with von der Leyen present, Macron will take the Chinese president on Tuesday to a village in the Pyrenees where his grandmother was born and which is close to his heart. This is primarily a response to the tea ceremony that Macron and Xi attended in Guangzhou some time ago, in the former home of Xi’s father.

Yet it is mainly a charm offensive by Macron, says Europe and China expert Noah Barkin Reuters. “He tries to get foreign leaders to his side by building a personal bond with them. But I hope he is under no illusion that taking Xi to a sentimental place will move him to tears and lead to compromises from Beijing.”

Divided

In Europe, China is viewed with distrust much more than five years ago. It says a lot that other European leaders, such as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, decided not to attend a meeting. It shows the divisions that exist towards China among the 27 EU member states. “China is increasingly seen as a multi-faceted threat in many European capitals,” says Barkin. “But within Europe there are divisions over how quickly and how far the EU should go to address these concerns and problems, both economically and security-wise.” And that’s a problem, says Barkin. “All levers fly out the window as European leaders send different messages to Xi.”

After the two days in Paris, Xi heads to Serbia, a visit that coincides with the 25th anniversary of the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, and then to Hungary. These are two countries that have much better ties with China and Russia. In Hungary he will meet Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Chinese President Jinping visits Europe time years time received bells whistles

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