May 18, 2024
 
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  • Source: FreePressers
  • 05/13/2024
FPI / May 13, 2024

By John J. Metzler

Paris in the Springtime! A perfect setting and venue for China’s Chairman Xi Jinping to visit to discuss geopolitics and commerce with French President Emmanuel Macron on whose politically pivotal position inside the European Union remains crucial.

But first the pomp and splendor of his red carpet visit to les Invalides Military Museum feted with a guard of honor and a military band all set in the shadow of the Emperor Napoleon’s tomb. Then to the Presidential Elysee Palace for a taste French glitter against a backdrop of what France does best; to excel in glam, setting, and banquets. And then the round of Cognac, geopolitics and trade!

Importantly Macron pressured Chairman Xi over China’s significant support to Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. The French leader stressed, “Without security for Ukraine, there can be no security for Europe.” China’s Xi pushed back firmly on Western criticism of tying Beijing to supporting Russia, claiming that China, “was not the origin of this crisis, nor a party to it, nor a participant.”

Speaking without too much irony, China’s communist leader countered, “We oppose the crisis being used to cast responsibility on a third country, sully its image and incite a new Cold War.”

Such statements conveniently overlook Beijing’s role in supporting the Russian arms industry with micro-chip and other high-tech supplies for Moscow’s military. Moreover, from the start of the Ukraine war, China dramatically upgraded its oil and gas imports from Russia thus effectively countering the Western sanctions slapped on Putin.

President Macron who fancies himself both as a Promethium powerbroker inside the EU not to mention the self-anointed arbiter of the fate of embattled Ukraine, was a natural for Chairman Xi’s flattery. China’s Xi knows how to play to Macron in the vainglorious tradition of raising your opponent to a lofty level from which he cannot step down without your help.

Conversely through, let’s not forget Emmanuel Macron has his own unique talents for “talking with tyrants” as he has with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and of course China’s Xi. Apparently, the French President rose to the high ground and held firm with the dictator.

Chairman Xi planned to divide the European Union at a vulnerable link. “For the Chinese France holds unique charm,” stated the national daily Le Figaro, based on literature and policy independence. French President Charles de Gaulle switched diplomatic ties to the People’s Republic of China in 1964; The political thunderclap was heard throughout the world as then still isolated Maoist China was recognized by a major Western country. That diplomatic move 60 years ago opened the way for many Western countries to recognize Beijing at the expense of the Republic of China on Taiwan. France thus holds a special place with Beijing.

Thus Sino/French commercial cooperation has profited from the nuclear to aerospace industries.

Nuclear power plant cooperation between China General Nuclear Power and the French state-owned power utility (EDF) dates back to the 1980’s building the Daya Bay nuclear plant in Shenzhen 1995; in 2008 both countries partnered to build two plants in Taishan. China and EDF also cooperate in producing Wind Turbines.

Besides geopolitics, Sino/European economic relations loom large as they do with the United States. For precisely that reason Macron was joined by the European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen for tough trade talks with Chairman Xi.

Concerning China, the EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell cautioned last year, “it is obvious our trade relations are unbalanced.” He added, “At over 400 billion a year, the EU’s trade deficit is at an unacceptable level. This is not due to the EU’s lack of competitiveness, but to China’s deliberate choices and policies.”

The EU’s 27 members ran a trade deficit of $426 billion with China in 2022, according to European Commission data, compared with a $250 billion deficit a year earlier. The French trade deficit with China last year stood at $50 billion.

Significantly, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen did not condone Beijing’s bloated trade deficits with Europe. She stated, “These subsidized products, such as electric vehicles or steel are flooding the European market.”

She warned, “At the same time China continues to massively support its manufacturing sector…the world cannot absorb China’s surplus production.”

The French weekly Le Point conceded that the Xi’s visit was not “very fruitful” and that there was an impasse on key issues; President Macron hosted what it termed “courtesy diplomacy.”

And just maybe, Ursula von der Layen may have held the line for free and fair trade.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014). 

Free Press International
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