Chinese Leader Xi Jinping Visits France Amid EU Tensions and Upcoming Elections

NChinese President Xi Jinping has landed in France, marking the beginning of his European Union tour, a trip that comes at a critical time as the EU gears up for significant elections. Over the next few days, Xi is set to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders, aiming to smooth over some of the rough patches that have recently emerged in China-EU relations.

During his two-day stay in France, Xi Jinping’s agenda is packed. As reported by Bloomberg via French news outlet La Tribune Dimanche, Macron is eager to discuss several key issues, including trade imbalances and environmental concerns. Macron emphasized the need for an ‘update’ in the France-China relationship, highlighting that China’s massive exports to Europe need addressing, especially in the green sector.

According to Matt Geraci from the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, Xi’s visit is strategically timed to counter the stress Beijing is experiencing with Washington. Geraci notes that Xi will likely use his time with Macron to diminish the perceived support China has for Russia amid ongoing conflicts. Furthermore, Xi aims to reinforce the economic benefits European nations gain from their relationship with China, urging them to maintain an independent stance rather than aligning closely with U.S. policies.

One of the pressing topics Macron is expected to bring up during his discussions with Xi is the war in Ukraine. Macron’s office told the Associated Press News that he would press Xi to leverage China’s influence over Russia to help bring an end to the conflict.

This visit is particularly significant as it is Xi’s first state visit to the EU in five years, and it comes just as the EU faces internal divisions over how to handle China’s growing influence in key sectors like electric vehicles (EVs) and solar energy. The European Commission, led by Ursula von der Leyen, who is also meeting Xi, has voiced concerns over an oversupply of Chinese subsidized goods which she described as market-distorting.

The backdrop of these meetings includes the upcoming European Parliament elections in June, where von der Leyen is campaigning for a second term. This political timing adds an extra layer of complexity to the discussions, as EU leaders balance domestic political pressures with the need for a coherent strategy towards China.

As China seeks to transition its economy from traditional manufacturing to more advanced sectors such as EVs and lithium batteries, trade and economic policies will undoubtedly be at the forefront of discussions with EU leaders.

This visit by Xi Jinping is not just a routine diplomatic engagement but a crucial strategic move as both China and the EU navigate a rapidly changing global landscape, deeply affected by economic challenges and geopolitical tensions. The outcomes of these meetings could very well shape the future relations between China and the European Union.

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