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Xiplomacy: Meetings of Leaders Facilitate Steady, Long-Term Development of China’s Ties With France, EU

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday held talks with visiting French President Emmanuel Macron in Beijing, which was followed by a trilateral meeting Xi held with Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Xi also had a separate meeting with von der Leyen after the trilateral meeting.

Just a day later in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province in south China, Xi and Macron went for a stroll and chatted over tea in an informal meeting.

In a complex and volatile world, the face-to-face meetings of the three leaders not only promoted political trust and strengthened dialogue of China, France and the European Union (EU), but also helped enhance their joint efforts to safeguard world peace, navigate crises and achieve shared prosperity.

STABILITY A VALUED ASSET

Stability is one of the keywords in Xi’s talks with Macron. During their meeting on Thursday, Xi spoke favorably of the momentum of positive and steady growth in the China-France relationship, and stressed that stability, a defining feature and valued asset of this relationship, should be cherished by both sides.

In recent years, under the strategic guidance of Xi and Macron, China-France relations have witnessed sound development thanks to fruitful strategic communication and practical cooperation. The two sides have also maintained close communication and coordination on international and regional affairs.

On the 50th anniversary of China-France diplomatic relations in 2014, Xi summarized the original aspiration of the establishment of the diplomatic relations as independence, mutual understanding, foresight, mutual benefit and win-win outcomes.

Over the years, by adhering to the original aspiration, China-France relations have set an example for the relations between China and other Western countries.

Currently, the world is undergoing profound historic transformation. Global economic recovery is still faltering, the development gap is widening, hot events keep popping up, and the global development process has suffered serious setbacks.

China and France, according to Xi, as permanent members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, major countries with a tradition of independence, and firm advocates for a multi-polar world and for greater democracy in international relations, have the ability and responsibility to rise above differences and obstacles, keep to the overall direction of a comprehensive strategic partnership that is stable, mutually beneficial, enterprising and dynamic, and practice true multilateralism for global peace, stability and prosperity.

As for China-EU relations, Xi stressed that China and Europe are two major forces, big markets, and great civilizations in the world, saying that China-Europe relations bear on the wellbeing of both sides and the stability and prosperity of the world at large.

China will keep its Europe policy stable in the long run, continue to see Europe as an independent force in a multi-polar world, and stay committed to a China-Europe relationship that is not targeted at, subjugated to, or controlled by any third party, Xi said.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. China is prepared to work with the EU to set the right direction and tone for China-EU ties, fully resume exchanges at all levels and revitalize mutually-beneficial cooperation in various fields, thus injecting fresh impetus into China-EU relations and global peace, stability and prosperity.

Xi’s words have revived global confidence about China-Europe relations. Referring to Europe-China relations as a crucial “component of the future,” Romano Prodi, former president of the European Commission, said that it is important for the two parties to resume their direct exchanges in various areas which have been hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past three years.

MUTUALLY-BENEFICIAL RELATIONS

Senior executives from a number of renowned French companies including the electric giant EDF, Airbus and Alstom were on Macron’s delegation list. They all cherished the hope of further tapping the huge potential of the world’s largest consumer market.

“We have already seen potential opportunities in the market, which makes us even more bullish about China’s economic outlook and prospect,” Fabrice Megarbane, president of L’Oreal North Asia Zone and CEO of L’Oreal China, told Xinhua.

In China, Xi and Macron witnessed the signing of bilateral cooperation documents covering agrifood, science and technology, aviation, civil nuclear energy, sustainable development, and culture, demonstrating the vitality and broad space between China and France in deepening mutually beneficial cooperation.

Although the world economy is recovering slowly, China-EU trade and investment cooperation has maintained a robust momentum. In 2022, bilateral trade reached 847.3 billion U.S. dollars, up 2.4 percent year on year.

As an epitome of China-EU cooperation, the China-Europe Railway Express service has been expanded to more than 200 European cities, ensuring the stability and smooth flow of the global supply chain. In 2022, China-Europe freight trains made 16,000 trips, carrying 1.6 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of goods.

China-Europe exchanges in various areas have resumed swiftly and comprehensively. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited China in late March. Dozens of business leaders from Europe recently attended China Development Forum 2023 and expressed their confidence in and expectations for investing and growing in China. Political consultations between Chinese and European foreign ministries are held almost every week in preparation for frequent high-level interactions between the two sides at the next stage.

The close interactions between China and Europe fully show that despite some differences, the two sides have a strong desire for communication and share extensive and profound common interests.

During the trilateral meeting with Macron and von der Leyen, Xi called on China and the EU to seek common ground while shelving differences, and learn to accommodate, appreciate, draw upon and facilitate each other’s development.

The EU and China are each other’s important trading partners and the two economies are highly intertwined, von der Leyen said, adding that decoupling from China is neither in the EU’s interests nor the EU’s strategic choice.

Macron noted that in a world full of uncertainties, the EU and China should work with each other to stay away from the trap of economic decoupling and severing supply chains, carry out mutually-beneficial cooperation on an equal footing, tackle pressing global challenges such as climate change, and keep deepening the EU-China comprehensive strategic partnership.

“Europe-China relations are decisive for the future of the world,” said Bruno Guigue, a French international affairs expert. “The common future of China and Europe is the development of mutually beneficial cooperation.”

ONLY CORRECT SOLUTION TO UKRAINE CRISIS

During the meetings, Xi reaffirmed China’s position on the Ukraine crisis, calling on the parties to jointly create conditions for peace talks.

At the meeting with Macron on Friday, Xi noted that the cause of the crisis is complex and a prolonged crisis serves no one’s interests. He said a ceasefire as soon as possible would serve the interests of all parties concerned, and a political settlement is the only correct solution.

China will never handle the Ukraine issue out of selfish interests, but always stands for fairness and justice. All relevant parties should shoulder their responsibilities and make joint efforts to create conditions for a political settlement, Xi said.

China’s efforts to promote a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis are winning more approval from European leaders.

During the meetings, von der Leyen and Macron agreed that China did not create the Ukraine crisis, and said that they appreciate China’s efforts to promote a political settlement and look forward to China playing a more important role. They also said that they are prepared to work with China to find a way to facilitate talks for peace.

“China advocates peace and talks. It is playing a positive role for ending the crisis,” said Herve Juvin, a member of the European Parliament, adding that “China is now playing as a peacemaker.”

As a European saying goes, “Those who work alone, add; those who work together, multiply.” In this spirit, China is ready to work with the European side to advance exchanges and cooperation, build up trust and narrow differences, and inject certainty and positive energy to a volatile world with the stability and growth of China-Europe relations. 

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