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Macron Calls for Closer Ties to China During State Visit

Victor Westerkamp
Victor resides in the Netherlands and writes about freedom and governmental and social changes to the democratic form of nations.
Published: April 10, 2023
Chinese President Xi Jinping leads French President Emmanuel Macron (left) on the first day of Macron’s three-day visit to China on April 5. Apart from several aviation and utility business contracts the French managed to forge, there hasn’t been much progress on several hot topics like the lingering Ukraine war, a looming Taiwan conflict, and the deplorable human rights situation under Xi’s communist regime. (Image: Video still/Thomson Reuters)

French President Emmanuel Macron was pampered by President Xi Jinping during his visit to China, in what critics called an attempt to wean the French off from the U.S.

Macron, traveling with a 50-strong business delegation including Airbus, luxury giant LVMH, and nuclear energy producer EDF, was expected to announce deals with China.

The French president was accompanied by European Commission Chief Ursula Von der Leyen, who made her first trip to China since taking office as European Commission president in 2019.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping hosted a tea ceremony for his French counterpart on Friday as part of an unusually lavish welcome on a state visit, which some analysts see as a sign of Beijing’s growing offensive to woo critical allies within the European Union to counter the United States.


Xi’s efforts to treat his guest seemed to have paid off. Right after the first informal talks between the two leaders, Macron told the convened press that Europe must keep up trade and diplomatic ties with Beijing and forsake what some have dubbed an “inescapable spiral” of tension between China and the West.

Macron also urged his Chinese counterpart to talk some reasoning into the mind of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I know I can count on you to bring back Russia to reason and everyone back to the negotiating table,” Macron said during a bilateral meeting with Xi.

However, the French envoy had little promising news to report home over issues like Taiwan, human rights, and China’s unwillingness to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Xi smiled at his counterpart but didn’t give a budge.

Xi, who has profiled himself to be a potential negotiator between the warring parties, did not give way to the subtle hint by Macron and expressed his hope that Moscow and Kiev will hold peace talks soon.

Ukraine crisis

He has come up with a 12-point peace plan that proposes a gradual de-escalation leading to a comprehensive ceasefire. However, the West has resolutely declined the plan on the assumption it would not be impartial as China is considered too much on Russia’s side, even to the point of delivering arms to Russia—a claim firmly denied by the Chinese. 

According to Reuters, citing a French diplomatic source, Macron had urged Xi not to provide weapons to Russia, to which Xi had replied that it was not his war. 

Macron also asked Xi to press Russia to comply with international rules on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, especially concerning Putin’s plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in its neighbor Belarus.

Xi said all countries should respect all non-proliferation treaties concerning nuclear arms. He also said that a “nuclear war shouldn’t be waged,” calling upon the international community to “refrain from any action that would lead to further deterioration of the crisis or even to it getting out of control.”

Ursula von der Leyen

Von der Leyen, days before the visit, said Europe must “de-risk” diplomatically and economically with a hardening China.

Von der Leyen said she was also interested in whether Xi would talk to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky about his peace plan. “It was interesting to hear that President Xi reiterated his willingness to speak” to Zelensky, Von der Leyen said, adding Xi said such a conversation could take place when the “conditions and time are right.” 

The EU leaders’ visit to China comes after years of deteriorating ties with Beijing over issues including a stalled investment pact, China’s reluctance to condemn Russia over its Ukraine invasion, and the civil rights abuse in Xinjiang, a situation she called “particularly concerning.”

For its part, China said it is keen to make sure Europe does not follow what it sees as U.S.-led efforts to frustrate China on its path to economic and political predominance.

Von der Leyen also expressed her concerns about tensions in the Taiwan Strait which she found of paramount importance. 

However, any hopes von der Leyen may have had to get some acknowledgment were swiftly torpedoed by Xi, who said that expecting China to compromise on Taiwan was “wishful thinking.”

Reuters contributed to this report