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Why China wants Macron to drive a wedge between Europe and America – POLITICO

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Expressed by artificial intelligence.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping had an overarching message for his visiting French counterpart Emmanuel Macron this week: Don’t let Europe get caught up in America’s game.

Beijing wants to prevent the EU from falling further under American influence, at a time when the White House is pursuing a more assertive policy to counter China’s geopolitical and military power.

Russia’s year-long war on Ukraine has strengthened the alliance between Europe and the United States, shaken up global trade, reinvigorated NATO and forced governments to consider what could suddenly go wrong in world affairs. This is not welcome in Beijing, which still considers Washington as its strategic enemy.

This week, the Chinese counteroffensive kicked into high gear, activating the charm. Xi hosted Macron in the grandest setting of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, alongside European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. This stood in stark contrast to China’s current efforts to keep senior US officials at arm’s length, especially since US Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a trip to Beijing during the spy balloon drama earlier this year.

US and Chinese officials know that Europe’s policy toward Beijing is far from settled. It is an opportunity and a risk for both parties. In recent months, US officials have warned of China’s willingness to send weapons to Russia and raised the dangers of allowing Chinese tech companies unfettered access to European markets, with some success.

TikTok, which is ultimately Chinese-owned, has been banned from government and administrative phones in a number of places in Europe, including EU institutions in Brussels. US pressure has also led the Dutch to impose new export controls on sales of advanced semiconductor equipment to China.

Yet even warmonger von der Leyen, a former German defense minister, rejected the idea of ​​completely decoupling Europe from the Chinese economy. From Beijing’s perspective, this is another significant difference from the hostile business environment promoted by the United States.

This week alone, 36 Chinese and French companies signed new agreements in front of Macron and Xi, in what Chinese state media described as a sign of “non-declining confidence in the Chinese market for European companies”. While not a confident statement, it could have been worse.

Over the past two years, European leaders have become more skeptical of China’s trajectory, expressing dismay at Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, treatment of protesters in Hong Kong and Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. , as well as China’s sanctions against European politicians and military threats. against Taiwan.

Then Xi and Vladimir Putin hailed a “limitless” partnership just days before Russia invaded Ukraine. As the West slapped tough sanctions on Moscow, China became the last major economy still interested in maintaining — and expanding — its trade relationship with Russia. This shocked many Western officials and sparked fierce debate in Europe over how to punish Beijing and how far to withdraw from Chinese trade.

Beijing saw Macron as the natural partner to avoid a plunge in EU-China relations, especially since Angela Merkel – his former favorite – was no longer German Chancellor.

Macron’s willingness to engage with anyone – including his much-criticized contacts with Putin before his war on Ukraine – made him particularly appealing as Beijing sought to drive a wedge between European and American strategies. on China.

Xi Jinping sees Macron as a natural for Angela Merkel, his former partner in the West who helped avoid a plunge in EU-China relations | Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

Don’t take sides

“I am very happy that we share many of the same or similar views on China-France, China-Europe, international and regional issues,” Xi told Macron over tea Friday in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou. , according to Chinese state media Xinhua.

Strategic autonomy, an axis of French foreign policy, is a favorite for China, which sees this notion as proof of Europe’s distance from the United States. For his part, Macron told Xi a day earlier that France promotes “European strategic autonomy”, dislikes “bloc confrontation” and believes in doing its own thing. “France does not choose sides,” he said.

The French position is contested by some in Europe who see an urgent need for a tougher approach to Beijing.

“Macron could easily have avoided the gloomy image of European and transatlantic disunity,” said Thorsten Benner, director of the Berlin-based Global Public Policy Institute. “No one forced Macron to show up with a huge trade delegation, repeating refuted illusions of reciprocity and deluding himself about using his personal magic on Xi to trick the Chinese leader into turning on Putin.”

Holger Hestermeyer, professor of European law at King’s College London, said Beijing would find it difficult to split the transatlantic alliance.

“If China is to succeed in building a new world order, separating the EU from the US – even a little – would be a valuable goal – and beware, probably an elusive goal,” Hestermeyer said. “Right now the EU is strengthening its defenses specifically because China has tried to divide and conquer with the EU in the past.”

Xi’s focus on America was unmistakable when he veered off topic that was far from Europe’s top priority, during his three-way meeting with Macron and von der Leyen. A week earlier, the Biden administration held its second democracy summit, where Russia and China were touted as the main threats.

“The spread of the so-called ‘democracy against authoritarianism’ [narrative]“Will only bring division and confrontation to the world,” Xi told his European guests on Thursday.


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