June 10, 2023

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Von der Leyen and Macron want to separate Chinese President Xi from Putin

Von der Leyen and Macron want to separate Chinese President Xi from Putin

Emmanuel Macron and Ursula von der Leyen

NOS Newsan average

  • Chord Den Daas

    China Correspondent

  • Kesiah Hexter

    European Union Correspondent

  • Chord Den Daas

    China Correspondent

  • Kesiah Hexter

    European Union Correspondent

Pulling Chinese President Xi Jinping toward the European Union and distancing himself from his Russian counterpart, Putin. This is the goal of French President Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during their visit to the Chinese president tomorrow. But the breakthroughs are unexpected, and the positions of the parties are far apart from that.

After three years of strict measures related to Corona, it is now crowded again in Beijing. Almost every day, the front pages of Chinese state media are filled with images of government leaders shaking hands with the party chief and President Xi Jinping. Statesman Xi, as he likes to introduce himself, is back.

China’s role in the war

One of the most important items on Macron and von der Leyen’s agenda is China’s role in the Ukraine war, which China always refers to as ‘the Ukraine problem’. According to von der Leyen, the Chinese position on the Russian invasion is “crucial to future relations between the EU and China”.

Xi has a “good friendship” with Russian President Putin and could push for an end to the war. So far, the Chinese president has refused even to condemn the war. According to Washington, Xi is considering supporting Russia with military means, something they fear in Brussels. But China dismissed these allegations as nonsense.

Contact Zelensky

The French president and the European Commission president are also expected to pressure Xi to contact Ukrainian President Zelensky. This will be the first time.

In the run-up to Xi’s visit to Putin last month, there was much speculation that he would contact his Ukrainian counterpart, but so far this has not happened. Beijing also prefers not to see war, but wants to avoid defeating Putin.

Xi and Putin toast during the Chinese president’s visit to Moscow late last month

The European Union is looking for its own way in its relationship with China and the United States. There, many advocate economic and political “decoupling” from China. But the President of the European Commission does not want to go that far.

In a speech on the eve of her visit, von der Leyen spoke of “reducing risks” in the relationship with China. The European Union cannot do without China, because the Union depends in many areas.

‘moral duty’

On the eve of the visit, EU foreign affairs coordinator Josep Borrell said that Beijing, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, should be open to international rules. China has a moral obligation to contribute to peace.”

China appreciates European efforts at what it calls “strategic autonomy.” A more independent stance for America, translate freely. From Ukraine to restrictions on the export of high-end technology, such as chip machines from Dutch manufacturer ASML: Beijing believes Europe is firmly under America’s leash.

She sees the relationship as difficult in some areas, but also understands that in any case she is still in talks with Europe, China’s most important trading partner. Managing this relationship in Beijing is a matter for the party leadership.


The visit comes as Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen meets House Speaker McCarthy in Los Angeles. Taiwanese presidents often stop in America during international trips, but they also have never met the “Chairman of the House”.

Just this past summer, McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan. That visit led to large-scale military exercises by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. A missile was also launched over Taiwan. Beijing, which views Taiwan as Chinese territory that is willing to take it by force if necessary, has threatened repercussions after the latest standoff.

But so far, apart from the usual flight movements in the airspace that Taiwan claims as its air defense zone, there has been no major reaction. The question is whether Beijing will dare to come up with a stronger response during the European leaders’ visit. Another factor is that the former president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang, is touring China.

Tête-à-tête with Xi Jinping

Von der Leyen will also speak with representatives of European companies in China tomorrow. She will have lunch with the new Premier Li Qiang. In addition to the joint visit with Macron, she also has a meeting with Xi Jinping.

After a press conference, you will return to Europe on Friday morning. Macron will also visit Sun Yatsen University in Guangzhou. Then he will meet Xi again for dinner before returning to Paris.

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