The Chinese mission: Xi in Europe to relaunch the challenge to the USA


By John

European mission for Xi Jinping: the Chinese president left Beijing headed for France, and then continued on to Serbia and Hungary. Xi took off from the Chinese capital's airport accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and senior officials from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Foreign Ministry. The visits, at the invitation of the respective leaders of each country, are part of the objective of strengthening bilateral relations and promoting cooperation in various fields.
In France, according to official information, Xi will meet President Emmanuel Macron to discuss issues ranging from the economy, trade and climate change. French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal will welcome Xi at Paris Orly airport. The visit coincides with 60 years of diplomatic relations between China and France. Tomorrow the Chinese president will meet Macron and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. During the meeting, which will take place at the Elysée, the trio will address their numerous commercial disagreements. In recent months the European Union has multiplied its investigations into Chinese state subsidies in sectors such as electric cars, accused of being anti-competitive. In Serbia and Hungary he will meet respectively the Serbian president, Aleksandar Vucic, and the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, to talk about investments and infrastructure.
Xi's tour, the first in Europe in almost five years, in which the Covid-19 pandemic which has closed the borders of the Asian country, takes place in a context of growing tension between China and the West, in particular on human rights and commercial relations. Although China's official media does not mention anything about these issues, international political issues, such as the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, as well as the US position on these issues and the situation in Taiwan, will inevitably be addressed in the talks.

The war in Ukraine will also be a key point of the talks: Beijing confirms the solidity of its relationship with Moscow, claims to be officially neutral in the conflict and recalls that it has never condemned the Russian invasion. As a testament to the ties between Moscow and Beijing, Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to China in May.
The face-to-face meeting with Macron will certainly be the most important moment of Xi's European visit: this year France is celebrating sixty years of diplomatic relations with Beijing and the Elysée has made it known that «since China is one of Russia's main partners », Macron wants to «urge it to exploit the influence it has on Moscow to change Russia's calculations and contribute to a solution to the conflict». During a visit to China last year, Macron called on Xi to “bring Russia to reason.” The French diplomatic successes achieved by Paris were not sensational, but a few days after the meeting with Macron the Chinese president called the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, for the first time since the beginning of the conflict.
Xi's tour will also serve to express Beijing's discontent with the investigations opened by the EU against China's trade practices. Dialogue between Beijing and Europe is being put to the test by European investigations into Chinese business practices in sectors such as automotive, rail, solar and wind energy or medical devices, as well as by China's piqued response. Beijing has accused Europe of “protectionism” and Xi will certainly put the issue on the table of Macron and von der Leyen. China holds Paris responsible for investigations into subsidies for Chinese electric vehicles and has threatened trade retaliation that would primarily target French alcohol exports, starting with cognac.
Xi will spend two days in France, Monday and Tuesday, while the rest of the tour promises to be easier for the Chinese president who will be in Hungary and Serbia from Wednesday to Friday, two countries that have good relations with Beijing and Moscow. It does not escape observers that the visit to the Serbian capital comes on May 7, the 25th anniversary of the attack (with US guided munitions) on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, during the NATO campaign for Kosovo. Another detail on the agenda that highlights the Chinese position as antagonistic to that of the United States.