What you need to know about Xi Jinping’s visit to Europe

This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Europe for the first time in five years, stopping in France, Serbia and Hungary.

Xi’s visit comes amid heightened tensions with many European countries over China’s support for Russia in the face of Ukraine’s war, trade practices and apparent espionage. The visit will also test Europe’s delicate balance between China and the United States.

Mr. Xi wants to avoid a trade war with the European Union amid growing tensions over China’s electric vehicle exports and curtailing European companies’ access to the Chinese market. Mr. Xi also plans to encourage French President Emmanuel Macron to seek greater autonomy from the United States to reduce its global dominance.

Here’s what we know about Xi’s trip, which began Sunday.

The three countries that Mr. Xi will visit are: experts say, have accepted to varying degrees China’s push for a redefined world order. Everyone has some degree of doubt about America’s postwar world order and is keen to strengthen relations with China.

Hungary has close ties with China and is keen to attract Chinese investment in areas such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing as Chinese producers expand beyond Asia. Serbia also has friendly relations with China and has secured billions of dollars in Chinese investment.

Xi’s first stop will be France, where Macron recently said Europe “must never become a client state of the United States” and cast France as a bridge between the “Global South” and the West. .

Despite his favor with Beijing, Macron says he remains closer to his ally the United States than to China.

“I prefer to choose our relationship with the United States or China rather than be forced or pulled in one direction by the other,” he said. interview The Economist magazine. But he added: “Obviously, we are not equidistant. We are allies of the American people.”

Ahead of Xi’s visit, Chinese diplomats expressed hope for good relations between France and China. Will be at the forefront of China’s relations with the West.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, also participated in the talks. on monday Meeting with Mr. Xi and Mr. Macron in Paris.

This year is also a symbolic year for China and the three countries.

This year is the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France, and also the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Hungary.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Serbia, during the Kosovo war, killing three Chinese journalists and sparking angry protests at the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Chinese officials continue to point out that the bombing was a sign of NATO aggression and an example of why Russia was justified in feeling threatened before deciding to invade Ukraine.

Xi’s last trip to Europe was in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, and he spent time holed up in China, leaving the border for the first time in autumn 2022.

The 2019 visit included a glitzy ceremony in Rome to celebrate Italy’s participation in China’s Belt and Road global infrastructure project, aimed at expanding China’s influence abroad. France rolled out the red carpet for Xi in Paris, despite Macron’s warnings that “China is exploiting our divisions” and that “Europe’s era of naivety is over.” Signed more than a dozen trade and government agreements worth billions of euros. that’s all. “

Mr. Xi also visited Greece, pledging support for the country as it battles with Britain to acquire the Parthenon sculptures known as the Elgin Marbles.

Since Mr. Xi’s last visit, rifts have widened in China’s relations with many parts of Europe. The coronavirus pandemic, China’s support for Russia and repression of ethnic minorities, and a surge in Chinese exports have sparked a backlash against China in many European countries.

China has increased its car shipments to overseas markets fivefold in recent years, and the European Union has recently taken a more confrontational stance toward China’s trade practices. EU authorities have launched an investigation that could lead to restrictions on China’s solar power exports and have taken preliminary steps towards trade restrictions with Chinese products including electric cars, wind turbines and medical equipment.

Italy has also informed China that it will no longer participate in the Belt and Road Initiative, and last month, in a sign that European countries are stepping up their response, six Europeans were indicted on suspicion of spying for China in one week. It was done. for Chinese espionage.

At the same time, European countries have different views on how to engage with Beijing and benefit from economic opportunities there, and some are concerned about the imposition of tariffs by European countries.

Mr. Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also believe that Chinese influence will be important in ending the war in Ukraine.

david pearson Contributing reports from Hong Kong, Aurelian Breeden From Paris.

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