French President Emmanuel Macron has informed his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that he is "counting" on China to "bring Russia to its senses" and end its war in Ukraine.
"I know I can count on you to bring Russia to its senses and everyone to the negotiating table," Macron told Xi during an official bilateral meeting in Beijing on Thursday. The French leader had earlier made similar remarks on Twitter, where he wrote that he is "convinced that China has a major role to play in building peace."
I am convinced that China has a major role to play in building peace. This is what I have come to discuss, to move forward on. With President XI Jinping, we will also talk about our businesses, the climate and biodiversity, and food security.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 6, 2023
Xi responded to Macron's comments by stating that he welcomed ties with France in a world in "profound historical change," noting in particular that both Beijing and Paris are "staunch promoters of the multipolarisation of the world." He added that China and France both had the "ability and responsibility" to safeguard world peace.
After the meeting between Macron and Xi, a trilateral summit featuring European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will be held. It will be followed by a formal state dinner on Thursday evening.
Macron's three-day state visit to China comes amid rising tensions between Beijing and Western capitals — tensions which Macron attempted to calm almost immediately after his arrival in China.
"More and more, we are hearing voices of great concern about the future of relations between the West and China, to conclude that there is an inescapable spiral of growing tensions," Macron said at a meeting of the French community in Beijing on Wednesday. "I do not want to believe in that scenario."
Macron, who is accompanied by more than 50 French business leaders on his trip, also predicted that "important contracts" would be signed during his visit. "We must not disconnect, not separate from China, but continue to have a trade relationship with China."
During his speech, the French leader also offered some limited praise for China's 12-point peace plan for Ukraine. The proposal, which was issued around the time of the invasion's anniversary in February, was largely dismissed by Western leaders for its failure to explicitly condemn Russia's invasion.
"Do we agree with everything in [China's plan]?" Macron said. "No. However, it shows… a willingness to play a responsible role and try to build a pathway to peace."
Good cop, bad cop?
In contrast to Macron, Von der Leyen has adopted an increasingly hawkish stance on China in recent months. In a speech delivered in Brussels last week, the EU chief denounced China's decision to cultivate warmer ties with Russia despite the latter's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
"Far from being put off by the atrocious and illegal invasion of Ukraine, President Xi [Jinping] is maintaining his 'no-limits friendship' with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin," Von der Leyen said. "How China continues to interact with Putin's war will be a determining factor for EU-China relations going forward."
She also criticised China's "more assertive stance in its own neighbourhood," and suggested that such "escalatory actions" form part of a larger plan by President Xi, who "essentially wants China to become the world's most powerful nation."
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"The show of military force in the South China Sea and the East China Sea and at the border with India directly affect our partners and their legitimate interests," Von der Leyen said.
The EU chief also noted her "great concern" about China's "grave human rights violations occurring in Xinjiang," and affirmed that the EU's continued relations with China will be dependent upon the improvement of the latter's human rights record.
"How China meets international obligations regarding human rights will be another test for how — and how much — we can cooperate with China," she stated.