China’s Xi in Paris to Meet Macron, with Trade, Ukraine Talks Planned

Michel Euler/Pool via REUTERS
China’s President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan wave as they arrive on Sunday, May 5, 2024, at Orly airport, south of Paris.

PARIS, May 6 (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping awoke in Paris on Monday on his first visit to the region in five years, with trade and Russia’s war with Ukraine on the agenda in talks with France’s Emmanuel Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.

In a statement released on his arrival, Xi praised ties between the two nations, despite trade tensions over a European Union probe into Chinese electric vehicle exports, and Beijing’s investigation into mostly French-made imports of brandy.

Xi said ties between China and France were “a model for the international community of peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation between countries with different social systems.”

Chinese state media sought to strike a conciliatory tone in various editorials on Monday.

“China-EU economic and trade cooperation is huge, and bumps and bruises are inevitable,” the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship paper, wrote. “China is willing to strengthen communication and coordination with the EU, promote cooperation and resolve differences through dialog.”

The Global Times wrote that “China’s desire to expand cooperation with Europe and support Europe’s strategic autonomy remains unwavering.”

The EU’s 27 members – in particular France and Germany – are not unified in their attitude towards China. While Paris advocates a tougher line on the EV probe, Berlin wants to proceed with more caution, sources say.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will not join Macron and Xi in Paris due to prior commitments, sources said.

“In Europe, we are not unanimous on the subject because certain players still see China as essentially a market of opportunities,” Macron said in an interview with French newspaper La Tribune ahead of Xi’s two-day visit.

France hopes to nudge China into pressuring Moscow to halt operations in Ukraine, with little progress apart from Xi’s decision to call President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the first time shortly after Macron visited Beijing last year.

The China Daily said in an editorial that Ukraine was a top agenda item for European leaders visiting China.

“China and Europe can work together to push for a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine,” it said, adding that China could maintain normal economic and trade exchanges with both Ukraine and Russia.

France also hopes to push to open the Chinese market for its agricultural exports and resolve issues around the French cosmetic industry’s concerns about intellectual property rights, officials said. China, meanwhile, may announce an order for around 50 Airbus aircraft during Xi’s visit.

After Paris, Macron will take Xi to the Pyrenees, a mountainous region dear to the French president as the birthplace of his maternal grandmother, before Xi heads to Russia-friendly Serbia and Hungary.