Friday, May 24, 2024

Help us avoid a ‘new Cold War’: China’s Xi Jinping to France’s Macron

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By William Horobin, Samy Adghirni and Li Liu

 


Chinese President Xi Jinping called on France to help fend off a “new Cold War” as the European Union increasingly aligns with US concerns over security risks and trade tensions.

 


He told French President Emmanuel Macron the two nations should uphold mutual benefits, and jointly oppose decoupling and the disruption of supply chains, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing comments made during talks between the two leaders on Monday.


Xi is in Paris on a state visit before heading to Serbia and Hungary in his first trip to the bloc in five years. He is hoping to convince Europeans that Beijing offers an economic opportunity despite warnings from officials in Washington about the risks.


The EU and China have found themselves at odds on multiple fronts, including Russia’s war in Ukraine and international commerce. Distrust toward Beijing in Brussels is growing, shown by a recent flurry of arrests of alleged Chinese spies and a salvo of trade probes. And China’s declaration of a “no limits” friendship with Moscow has helped Russia weather unprecedented sanctions imposed by the US and its allies.


Macron reiterated that there cannot be security in Europe without security in Ukraine.


“We are at a historical turning point where threats are at an unprecedented level and the risks of global fragmentation are considerable,” Macron said, sitting alongside his Chinese counterpart at a business conference in the French capital.


Xi said the conflict could only be resolved through negotiations involving both sides and warned against using it as a tool to criticize China.


“We oppose this crisis being used to place responsibility on a third country, tarnish its image and incite a new cold war,” Xi said.


Painful shortages in weapons and manpower along the 1,200-kilometer (930-mile) front, along with a dire need for more air defense systems, have piled pressure on Ukraine’s fighting forces, raising the risk of a Russian breakthrough. Moscow has escalated its barrages of missile and drone attacks, decimating swathes of Ukrainian power-generating infrastructure and destroying residential buildings in city centers.


Macron and Xi called for a worldwide ceasefire during the Olympic Games that start in Paris in late July.


European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who joined the talks earlier on Monday, said after the meeting that the EU is prepared to deploy all the tools available to defend its economies if China fails to offer fair access to its markets.


The EU is becoming tougher on trade relations with China, echoing US concerns about state-fueled overcapacity in green industry. That rhetorical shift was already put into practice with the launch of a probe into subsidies for Chinese electric vehicles in the fall of 2023. The bloc followed up last month with a separate investigation into procurement of medical devices.


France has been a key champion of the EU’s firmer approach. In a speech last month laying out his vision for Europe’s future, Macron called for the EU to do more to echo subsidies in the US and introduce preferences for its homegrown industry in strategic sectors including artificial intelligence and green tech.


Still, Macron insisted that the EU is forging its own path to protect it from unfair competition regardless of its origin.


“Nobody dictates our trade, economic and technology policy,” he said. “We wish it to be sovereign, which means independent.”


Cognac Threat

 


For its part, China launched an anti-dumping investigation into liquor products, a move that could hurt France’s cognac producers disproportionately. More broadly, it has denied generating overcapacity and accuses the EU of protectionism.


According to Xinhua, Xi reiterated that position in talks with Macron and von der Leyen, saying there is no capacity issue viewed from the perspective of comparative advantage or global market demand.


The purpose of face-to-face meetings is to try to bridge some of the differences between countries, and Macron expressed some hope for progress on trade issues.


“I also thank the president for his openness on the provisional measures on French cognac and wish to see them not applied,” he said.


To mark Xi’s visit, Macron gave him some cognac, including from luxury giant LVMH and Remy Cointreau SA, among other gifts.


China and France also signed 18 bilateral cooperation agreements in areas including green development, aviation and people-to-people exchanges, according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry.


Xi said that China will extend short-term visa exemption for French citizens until the end of next year.

First Published: May 07 2024 | 10:33 AM IST

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