Xi’s Foreign Trip: West Must Be Vigilant against China’s Attempt to Sow Division

With an eye on a possible prolonged confrontation with the United States, China may have sought to drive a wedge between Western countries during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Europe. The United States and Europe should reinforce their unity and work to maintain the international order.

Xi visited the European countries of France, Serbia and Hungary on his first overseas trip this year, and his first to Europe in 4½ years.

Xi and French President Emmanuel Macron at their summit agreed on a policy of calling for a global truce during the Paris Olympics this summer. Macron has been calling for this in light of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the fighting in the Middle East.

Macron has long advocated for “strategic autonomy,” where Europe would maintain a certain distance from the United States. By demonstrating some degree of sympathy with Macron, Xi likely sought for France not to follow the United States as it leads anti-China efforts.

Meanwhile, at a joint press conference after their meeting, Macron said that Xi promised to strictly control the export of products that could be used for military purposes.

Russia is believed to be importing semiconductors and other military and civilian dual-use products from China and other countries, which it then uses to manufacture weapons. Macron apparently intended to put the brakes on China and Russia moving closer to each other on this matter. Xi, however, did not mention this during the joint press conference.

China has so far insisted that its military-related export controls are implemented in accordance with the law, but few countries accept this assertion at face value. Unless China reconsiders its current stance of effectively supporting Russia, it will not be able to dispel the distrust from other countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will soon visit China. If the visit ends up merely being an opportunity for the Chinese and Russian leaders to show off their amicable ties, as they have done in the past, the international community will become even more disillusioned in China.

If China is to tout itself as a responsible superpower, shouldn’t it strongly press Russia to cease its aggression?

After his visit to France, Xi visited Serbia and Hungary. While more countries in Europe are becoming increasingly wary of China, these two countries have conspicuously shown pro-China stances due to their expectations for economic cooperation.

At the summit in Serbia, the two leaders agreed to promote the Belt and Road Initiative to create a massive economic zone. In the China-Hungary summit, the two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation in such areas as infrastructure development.

Chinese investment probably appears attractive to European countries that are developing their infrastructure. However, if the economy of such countries becomes totally dependent on China, they could find themselves in situations where their foreign and domestic policies are influenced by China’s intentions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 12, 2024)