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Emmanuel Macron meets Xi in China for lavish state reception: Beijing plays down Putin friendship

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Emmanuel Macron arrived in China today to meet Xi Jinping for a lavish state reception, after Beijing appeared to distance itself from Moscow.

The French president told his Chinese counterpart that he was counting on him to ‘bring Russia to its senses’ in regards to the 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 a bilateral meeting in Beijing.

Xi said China and France have the ability and responsibility to transcend ‘differences’ and ‘restraints’ as the world undergoes profound historical changes.

The meeting was part of a European diplomatic mission to Beijing, ahead of which China’s ambassador to the European Union said critics of Xi’s regime had misinterpreted its relationship with the Kremlin in an apparent attempt to roll back on the support shown in recent weeks and months.

China's ambassador to the European Union has attempted to distance Beijing from Moscow after a strengthening of ties between the nuclear-armed superowers, as French president Emmanuel Macron arrived for a meeting with Xi Jinping (pictured together on Thursday)

China’s ambassador to the European Union has attempted to distance Beijing from Moscow after a strengthening of ties between the nuclear-armed superowers, as French president Emmanuel Macron arrived for a meeting with Xi Jinping (pictured together on Thursday)

China's President Xi Jinping, his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von de Leyen meet for a working session in Beijing, April 6

China’s President Xi Jinping, his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von de Leyen meet for a working session in Beijing, April 6

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, April 6

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, April 6

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron review troops during an official ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, April 6

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron review troops during an official ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, April 6

Fu Cong said critics of Xi’s regime had misinterpreted its relationship with the Kremlin, after a strengthening of ties between the nuclear-armed superpowers.

Macron and Ursula von der Leyen, Head of the European Commission, arrived in Beijing on Wednesday for a three day trip in the hope of thawing relationships with China – soured by its perceived backing of Vladimir Putin amid his brutal on-going invasion of Ukraine – and to urge Xi to push for peace.

While the EU has ardently backed Kyiv, Beijing has shown signs of supporting Moscow: Xi made a high-profile visit to the Russian capital last month, the two countries declared a ‘no limits’ friendship weeks before the invasion began in 2022, and the US has warned that China could supply weapons to Putin’s forces.

Meanwhile, the CCP has tried to present itself as a mediator in the conflict proposing a 12-point peace plan that walks a tightrope between insisting Ukraine’s territory be respected while parroting elements of Moscow’s narrative around the war. The plan has been roundly dismissed by Ukraine and its Western allies as favouring Russia.

Despite Beijing’s apparent support of Moscow, Chinese ambassador Fu downplayed Russia and China’s declaration of a ‘no limits’ friendship ahead of Macron and von der Leyen’s visit, while also criticising accusations levelled at his country.

Speaking to the New York Times, Fu said some ‘deliberately misinterpret this because there’s the so-called ‘no limit’ friendship or relationship.

”No limit’ is nothing but rhetoric,’ he insisted, saying there were indeed limitations.

He said that China had not supplied military support to Russia, and had not recognised Moscow’s annexation of Ukrainian territories – including Crimea in 2014 and the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions of Ukraine last year.

However, he said that Beijing has so far not condemned Putin’s illegal invasion because it recognised Moscow’s concerns about the expansion of the NATO alliance – something that Putin has used to ‘justify’ his invasion of Ukraine.

Kyiv and the West insist that Putin’s invasion is nothing but an illegal act of aggression, an imperialistic land-grab to satisfy the Kremlin’s expansionist ambitions, and an attempt to wipe Ukraine from the map.

Just yesterday, China joined Eritrea in voting against a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) motion to extend the mandate given to an investigative body probing allegations of war crimes in Ukraine by Russian forces.

Fu told the New York Times his government believes ‘the root causes [of the war in Ukraine] are more complicated’ than they are being presented in the West.

China’s ambassador to the EU also slammed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for saying in February that China was considering sending arms to Russia. He said the senior US official was spreading ‘lies on TV’.

The US and other Western nations said at the time they had seen evidence behind the scenes that suggested Beijing could support Putin’s war efforts with arms.

Fu also played down the significance of the fact that China’s president Xi had not yet called his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky since the war began. Before February 2022, China and Ukraine were considered close allies.

He said Xi was a very busy person, and that Beijing was in frequent contact with Ukraine at the lower levels of power.

Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, April 6

Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, April 6

Chinas President Xi Jinping (left) shakes hands with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron as they attend the official welcoming ceremony in Beijing on April 6

Chinas President Xi Jinping (left) shakes hands with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron as they attend the official welcoming ceremony in Beijing on April 6

Chinas President Xi Jinping (left) talks with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron as they arrive for the official welcoming ceremony in Beijing on April 6, 2023

Chinas President Xi Jinping (left) talks with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron as they arrive for the official welcoming ceremony in Beijing on April 6, 2023

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron pose on the podium during an official ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, April 6

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron pose on the podium during an official ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, April 6

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, April 6

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, April 6

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on April 6

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, April 6

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) sits across a table from French President Emmanuel Macron (right) as the pair attend a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on April 6

French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von de Leyen arrive for a working session with the Chinese president in Beijing, April 6

French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von de Leyen arrive for a working session with the Chinese president in Beijing, April 6

Observers, however, have contrasted this lack of contact from Xi with his frequent contact with Putin and the visit to Moscow last month, which saw the two autocrats meet for hours and toast each other over a grand dinner in the Kremlin.

US, Britain walk out at UN on Russian wanted for war crimes

The United States, Britain, Albania and Malta walked out on Russia’s envoy for children’s rights – whom the International Criminal Court wants to arrest on war crimes charges – as she spoke by video to U.N. Security Council members on Wednesday.

Britain and the United States blocked the informal meeting on Ukraine, convened by Russia to focus on ‘evacuating children from conflict zones,’ from being webcast by the United Nations.

The diplomats left the U.N. conference room where the discussion was being held as Russian Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova spoke.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told reporters that the United States joined Britain in blocking the webcast so Lvova-Belova did not have ‘an international podium to spread disinformation and to try to defend her horrible actions that are taking place in Ukraine.’

The International Criminal Court last month issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lvova-Belova, accusing them of illegally deporting children from Ukraine and the unlawful transfer of people to Russia from Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, 2022.

‘I know people are fixated on the presidential call,’ Fu told the New York Times on Wednesday. ‘The fact that President Xi is not speaking to Zelensky does not signify that China is on the side of Russia on the Ukrainian issue.’ 

He also said that a speech by von der Leyen suggested there was an incoherence in the EU’s police over China.

The European Commission president said the EU’s relationship with Beijing has become ‘more distant and more difficult’, and said China was seeking to become the ‘world’s most powerful nation’ with huge global influence.

Europe’s relations with China have in recent years soured over a range of issues including accusations of Chinese rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, a stalled investment pact, criticism of China’s transparency on COVID-19, and China’s reluctance to condemn Russia over its Ukraine invasion. 

Fu said the EU should ‘de-risk’ its relationship with China by setting new ground rules, rather than growing further apart.

He also said that Xi’s government was open to a deal with European nations over sanctions and investment, after the EU imposed sanctions on Chinese officials and institutions in 2021 over Beijing’s treatment Uyghurs.

In response, Beijing placed sanctions on EU lawmakers, and an investment agreement between the China and the bloc has been frozen ever since.

Fu said China is ‘open to suggestions’ over the deal, amid reports that Beijing could lift its sanctions if the EU did the same, and if the agreement moved forward.

He also parroted a frequent Chinese talking point which accuses the EU of frequently taking Washington’s lead, and said the bloc should develop more of its own ‘strategic autonomy’ when it comes to dealing with Beijing.

‘E.U. claims to be a big centre, a power centre in the world, an independent power centre in the world, as much as the United States, as much as China,’ Fu told the New York Times. ‘So why does it have to listen to the United States all the time?’

MARCH 21: Russian President Vladimir Putin and China's President Xi Jinping shake hands during a signing ceremony following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow

MARCH 21: Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping shake hands during a signing ceremony following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin and China's President Xi Jinping make a toast during a reception following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21

Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping make a toast during a reception following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21

Fu’s comments came as embattled French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in China, and said his country wants to forge a ‘common path’ on peace in Ukraine.

He was seen shaking hands with Xi before they headed in to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for a summit. The two leaders witnessed a 21-gun salute and strode side-by-side along a red carpet as a brass band played their national anthems.

Macron put both hands on Xi’s and then gave the Chinese leader an amicable pat on the back as they walked to greet members of each government.

Travelling with a 50-strong business delegation including Airbus, luxury giant LVMH and nuclear energy producer EDF, Macron is also expected to announce deals with China.

While the French business community has welcomed Macron’s overtures to China but not everyone at home thinks that is a good signal to send.

‘Three-quarters of the delegation are business leaders: the goal is first and foremost to sign contracts,’ Raphael Glucksmann, a left-wing member of the European parliament, wrote on Twitter before Macron’s visit.

‘At a time the debate in Europe focuses on our suicidal dependency on China and Chinese interference, the message is inopportune.’

French officials said Macron planned to urge Xi to use Beijing’s influence with Putin to promote peace in Ukraine, but expected no major change in China’s position.

Macron said during a meeting with ruling Communist Party’s No. 2 leader, Premier Li Qiang, that he wanted to talk about ‘Ukraine, but also about all the major conflicts and the difficult situations around the world.’

‘The ability to share a common analysis and build a common path is essential,’ Macron said.

Li said there was likely to be ‘broad consensus’ between Macron and Xi but gave no indication whether Beijing might be willing to lobby Moscow to make peace.

The meeting will ‘send positive signals of concerted efforts by China, France and Europe to maintain world peace and stability,’ Li said.

Earlier, Li met von der Leyen who, ahead of her first trip to China since taking office as European Commission president in 2019, said Europe must ‘de-risk’ diplomatically and economically with a hardening China.

‘Both Europe and China have benefited immensely from this relationship, however, EU-China relations have become more complex in the recent years and it is important that we discuss together all the aspects of our relations today,’ von der Leyen said before meeting Li.

Li said the partnership with the EU and France stood at ‘a new starting point’ and both parties should adhere to ‘mutual respect and win-win cooperation’.

Macron said Wednesday he wanted to ‘engage China toward a shared responsibility for peace’ in Ukraine. He expressed hope China will ‘participate in initiatives that are useful to the Ukrainian people.’

Xi’s government sees Russia as a source of energy and as a partner in opposing what both say is U.S. domination of global affairs.

China is the biggest buyer of Russian oil and gas, which helps to prop up the Kremlin’s revenue in the face of Western sanctions. 

That increases Chinese influence, but Xi appears reluctant to jeopardise that partnership by pressuring Putin.

Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery in the direction of Bakhmut, Ukraine, April 3

Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery in the direction of Bakhmut, Ukraine, April 3

Meanwhile, NATO’s 31 member countries warned Wednesday of ‘severe consequences’ should China start sending weapons and ammunition to Russia.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said giving ‘lethal aid’ would be a ‘historic mistake.’ He warned there would be ‘severe consequences’ to doing so.

Last week, von der Leyen warned the European Union must be prepared to develop measures to protect trade and investment that China might exploit for its own security and military purposes.

Macron said Wednesday he will push for ‘working in partnership’ with China on climate. He said France will organise a global conference on the protection of oceans in 2025 and said China should be part of these efforts.

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