French outreach to China highlights Europe’s divide with US

High-profile diplomatic conferences on reverse sides of the world are underscoring rising tensions between the U.S. and Europe in how to interact with China.

French President Emmanuel Macron, on a three-day journey to China, is billing his outreach as an effort to recruit Chinese President Xi Jinping to play a significant position in constructing peace between Ukraine and Russia, with an eye fixed on reining in Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The summit comes as Chinese officers have warned of penalties and retaliation in response to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) internet hosting Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen in California this week.

McCarthy, talking to reporters following his assembly with Tsai, stated he hoped Macron requested Xi not to “fund Russia’s war in Ukraine” and reiterated that “democracy makes the world safer and stronger.”

“I hope he delivers a message that Americans meeting with President Tsai is positive for the same aspect that he is meeting with President Xi,” he stated. 

The dueling diplomatic summits spotlight the hole between the U.S. and Europe over how to deal with China.

While the Biden administration and lawmakers on either side of the aisle describe Xi as working to reshape the world within the view of China’s authoritarian mannequin, European leaders are much less unified on the dangers versus rewards of shut ties with Beijing.

The Élysée Palace stated Macron and President Biden, in a name forward of the French chief’s journey, mentioned a “common desire to engage China to accelerate the end of the war in Ukraine and to participate in building a lasting peace in the region.”

The administration was extra reserved in its description of the dialog. A two-line readout from the White House merely said that Biden and Macron talked concerning the French president’s upcoming journey and reiterated help for Ukraine. 

France’s strategy: Seek peace, preserve financial ties

Macron’s go to, accompanied by dozens of enterprise officers, highlights France’s give attention to sustaining, if not strengthening, financial ties to China, even because the U.S. has for months warned that Beijing is contemplating sending weapons to Russia to be used in its battle in Ukraine.

“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,” Macron tweeted on Thursday. “With President Xi Jinping, we will also talk about our businesses, the climate and biodiversity, and food security.”

Xi has sought to painting himself as a world peacemaker. Alongside Macron on Thursday in Beijing, he stated China is committed to facilitating peace talks and a settlement on “the Ukraine crisis,” affirmed {that a} nuclear battle ought to by no means be fought, and that “legitimate security concerns of all parties” needs to be taken under consideration.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, backside proper, arrives to ship a speech on the Sun Yat-sen college in Guangzhou, China, Friday, April 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

French officers say they don’t see a battle of curiosity between sustaining commerce ties with China whereas making an attempt to interact Xi to act extra responsibly.

“Talking with China and having direct engaging discussions doesn’t mean you erase the economic ties,” one French diplomat advised The Hill.

“Personal engagement is even more important with China, after three years of pandemic, and considering the nature of the regime,” the diplomat continued, a reference to Xi’s close to complete energy over the state. 

How Europe, US differ on China

But critics say that Macron’s coterie of enterprise executives undermines any effort to push Xi to get powerful on Russia. 

“In a situation where we’re trying to talk strategy with the Chinese, trying to get them to commit not to deliver weapons to Russia, bringing along so many business people with all deals in their minds, and Euro signs in their pupils, is the wrong signal,” stated Roland Freudenstein, vp and head of GLOBSEC Brussels, a suppose tank primarily based in Slovakia. “It means that you come with a carrot, but you don’t come with a stick, and any talk of the stick is not valid at that moment.” 

Other specialists although stated that Macron shouldn’t be made right into a boogeyman from this go to to China, contemplating that Europe has enterprise pursuits to preserve in China.

“Both the U.S. and Europe have this new sort of idea that China is a rival, a partner, and a competitor. For the U.S., the ordering is probably rival first, then competitor, then partner. For Europe, that used to be the other way around,” stated Matthias Matthijs, European skilled on the Council on Foreign Relations.

“The Europeans are slowly moving closer to the American line on China, but the U.S. has also moved very aggressively in a different direction than, say, it was during the Obama administration, and the Europeans aren’t quite there yet because they have no reason to be,” added Matthijs, additionally a professor of worldwide political financial system at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

Biden and Xi haven’t spoken since they met in Bali, Indonesia, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Summit in November, however Biden stated he would speak to Xi within the wake of the Chinese spy balloon traversing the United States in February. 

When requested concerning the telephone name between Biden and Macron, nationwide safety council spokesman John Kirby on Wednesday declined to present additional particulars however stated the president was “grateful” that Macron referred to as him earlier than his journey to Beijing.

“We still urge China, that if they truly want to accelerate an end to the war, to join the rest of the international community in condemning what Mr. Putin is doing,” Kirby stated.

“China has a relationship with them, so, we’ve said this before, we’d like to see them put more pressure on Mr. Putin to end this war. And if they really do believe in a sustainable peace, then they could do that.”

Xi Jinping, Joe Biden
FILE – U.S. President Joe Biden, proper, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake arms earlier than their assembly on the sidelines of the G20 summit assembly, Nov. 14, 2022, in Nusa Dua, in Bali, Indonesia. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Europe, although, is much less involved than the U.S. is about China offering weapons to Russia, primarily as a result of China is already promoting oil, fuel and different items to Russia that assist Putin’s regime keep afloat, Matthijs argued.

“I don’t think it isn’t a red line [for Europe], I just don’t think it’s something that is a very high-risk scenario. If there were to be evidence, I think Europe would get closer to the U.S.’s line on this, but they’re just not convinced the Chinese are willing to go there,” he stated.

Europe itself is cut up on China

But not all European leaders share France’s view of China.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who accompanied Macron on his journey, has staked out a extra hawkish place, calling Beijing “more repressive at home and more assertive abroad,” and saying Europe ought to “derisk” in its financial ties with China.  

“Far from being put off by the atrocious and illegal invasion of Ukraine, President Xi is maintaining his ‘no-limits friendship’ with Putin,” von der Leyen stated in major speech about China late last month.

“How China continues to interact with Putin’s war will be a determining factor for EU-China relations going forward,” she stated. 

Her hawkish strategy is considered as extra in line with central and japanese European nations, which have cut up with mainstream views from France and Germany that engagement with China might help deter aggression.

Lithuania is on the frontlines of calling out China’s malintent. China decreased Lithuanian imports in 2021 by 80 % after Vilnius deepened financial ties with Taiwan. And Czechia and Slovakia, Freudenstein stated, are more and more aligned with Vilnius. 

“While the general trend is negative, even in France and Germany, you have, in my view, an increasing cleavage between most of the eastern flank countries, and then Britain, on the one hand,” he stated, “and continental western and southwestern Europe on the other. And the latter club hasn’t completely given up on China.”

Still, there’s additionally concern about the way forward for the U.S., and if the 2024 presidential election ushers in an isolationist Republican administration that can undo the Biden administration’s efforts at rebuilding ties with Europe that have been severely strained in the course of the former Trump presidency.

“There’s a relief in Europe with Biden being so engaged, but there’s always at the same time an apprehension that this could all go sideways in the next two years,” Matthijs stated.

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