Chinese President Xi Jinping held a trilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Beijing.
Von der Leyen in a meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang said relations between the EU and China have become “complex in recent years.”
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Macron on Ukraine invasion: “Bringing Beijing back to reason”
Emmanuel Macron and Ursula von der Leyen in Beijing to bring China closer to Europe and involve it in the Ukraine peace process. “In these difficult times, the dialogue between our countries is even more crucial,” said the French president.
“Bring Beijing back to reason,” the leaked imperative from the first meeting, ahead of the trilateral with the chairwoman of the European Commission. “How China will continue to react to Putin’s war,” the warning issued by Ursula von der Leyen on the eve of the meeting, “will be decisive for the future of EU-China relations.
Europe-China relations and the “De-risking” process
Since 2019, relations between Europe and China have soured due to the stalling of the Comprehensive Investment Agreement (CAI) in 2021 and Beijing’s refusal to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Macron invited von der Leyen to the trip to represent European unity after French officials criticized German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for traveling alone to China late last year.
Von der Leyen, for whom this will be her first visit to China since becoming president of the European Commission, said the EU must reduce risks in ties with Beijing.
The EU is in a difficult situation as it is under intense pressure from the United States to adjust its economic relations with China. Decoupling between China and the EU will only serve U.S. interests, but it will make both China and Europe suffer.
Macron, meanwhile, will be accompanied by Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, as well as executives from around 50 companies, including nuclear power group EDF, Alstom, water and waste group Veolia, and Airbus, which is negotiating a large aircraft order.
Critics pointed out that the arrival of such a large French trade delegation and the flaunting of deals could send the wrong message in an attempt to eliminate the risks of trade dependence with China.
However, in his speech, Von der Leyen also called for the need to “de-risk, not decouple,” making it clear that Europe still needs and wants to do business with China.
The Ukraine factor and Beijing’s position
Beyond trade, both said they wanted to persuade China to use its influence over Russia to bring peace to Ukraine or at least to prevent Beijing from directly supporting its ally.
The official added that Beijing would have the unique ability to “change the fate of the conflict,” but added that it could help or hurt depending on its choices.
Earlier this year, China proposed a 12-point peace plan for the Ukraine war, which called on both sides to agree to a gradual de-escalation leading to a complete ceasefire.
But the West has largely rejected Beijing’s peace plan because of China’s refusal to condemn Russia. Also, the United States and NATO have warned that China might consider sending arms to Russia.
Suspicions about China’s motives were heightened after President Xi Jinping traveled to Moscow last month for a meeting with Putin on his first foreign visit since winning a precedent-setting third presidential term.
While Beijing has denied these claims, the EU has maintained that China has not crossed any red lines in supplying arms to Russia. Macron said he wanted to stress to Xi, that Europe will not accept China supplying weapons to Russia.
Macron and von der Leyen are also expected to invite Xi to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with whom the EU Commission chairwoman spoke before her visit to China.
“Ukraine will be an important topic of my meetings with President Xi and Premier Li,” von der Leyen tweeted after the phone call. “The EU wants a just peace that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” von der Leyen added.