Xi Jinping’s visit to France: “It’s sad that France and Germany are unable to respond together to the Chinese challenge”

Xi Jinping’s visit to France: “It’s sad that France and Germany are unable to respond together to the Chinese challenge”
Xi Jinping’s visit to France: “It’s sad that France and Germany are unable to respond together to the Chinese challenge”

Why did Xi Jinping choose France to return to Europe after the Covid years?

From the Chinese point of view, France represents a country supposed to have a strategic distance from the United States, a state which retains a certain autonomy and with which we can discuss. After Paris, Xi Jinping will continue his trip to Europe via Serbia and Hungary for different reasons. The idea is to regain a foothold in Central Europe, while countries like Lithuania have recently turned their backs on Beijing by recognizing Taiwan.

Furthermore, in Belgrade, there is also a domestic political dimension, because Xi Jinping will go there on the 25th.e anniversary of the bombing of the Chinese embassy by Washington during the NATO campaign in Yugoslavia. This episode was traumatic for many Chinese, despite the fact that the Americans have already apologized profusely. This will be an opportunity for Xi Jinping to recall the aggressiveness of the West towards China.

Emmanuel Macron claims a position of balance between the United States and China. Is this policy effective at a time when Beijing is clearly asserting its support for Russia and Iran?

When sixty years ago General de Gaulle decided to diplomatically recognize communist China, this prompted the United States to do the same a few years later, in 1972. We were pioneers and Emmanuel Macron is trying to register in this lineage. But today, the balance has completely shifted. It is a much more powerful China from an economic and technological point of view.

On the Ukrainian issue, we should not expect much from this state visit. The meeting between Emmanuel Macron and Xi Jinping could simply be used later, at a later stage, when peace negotiations will begin between Moscow and kyiv. The idea is to open diplomatic channels with China in order to allow for changes during negotiations. It’s a bet that Emmanuel Macron is making.

Apart from the Ukrainian issue, what are the major points of tension between the two countries?

On geopolitical questions, there is the subject of the Pacific zone, which is a meeting place between France and China, because we have interests there. Africa is also a subject of tension, particularly in the Sahel where we have been ousted by a certain number of countries which are now turning towards China. There are also points of contention over resources, for example fishing in the Indian Ocean.

We also have different salespeople. This is a file managed by Brussels, but the structural imbalances have become very significant between our countries. The question of reciprocity of market access is a crucial issue, because for a long time China was content to assemble products on behalf of Europe and its growth was driven by domestic consumption. Today, its products enter into direct competition with European products, this is a major breakthrough. Head-to-head competition is increasing.

Can an economic collision between the EU and China still be avoided?

This is the bet that Europe is making, and in particular Germany which is talking about “de-risking”, reducing risks in geopolitical matters. But how long will this position be tenable? From the moment the relationship between China and the USA dominates that between China and the EU, and as the divide between Washington and Beijing deepens, our position will become untenable. China is aware of this and is trying to play on our divisions.

Olaf Scholz was invited to participate in the meeting between Emmanuel Macron and Xi Jinping but declined the invitation. Is Berlin afraid of offending China, which represents an outlet for its car manufacturers?

There are conflicting interests within the EU. China has always played on this fiber to divide Europe. With Emmanuel Macron, we are nevertheless witnessing a change in discourse, because the head of state has always tried to involve our European allies in exchanges with Beijing. We must regret that there are divergent interests today, and there is reason to regret the fact that France and Germany are unable to respond together to the Chinese challenge which is taking up more and more space on the geopolitical scene.

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