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China's Xi Jinping to begin Europe visit amid tensions over industrial policy and war in Ukraine The Irish Times

China's Xi Jinping to begin Europe visit amid tensions over industrial policy and war in Ukraine The Irish Times

 


Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Paris on Sunday for his first visit to Europe in five years, amid tensions over Chinese industrial policy and its approach to Russia's war against Ukraine. The five-day trip will also include visits to Serbia and Hungary, which have warmer relations with China than any of their European neighbors.

The most important political meeting of Chinese leaders will take place on Monday, with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. European concerns about overcapacity in China's manufacturing sector, particularly in solar panels, electric vehicles and other green technology products, will be high on the agenda.

Xi has shifted investment in China away from traditional growth engines such as construction toward what he calls new productive forces. This policy has allowed Beijing to offer considerable support, directly and indirectly, to sectors such as electric vehicles, in which China is ahead of its competitors.

Macron and Von der Leyen favor a tough response to the threat they see to European manufacturers from a flood of cheap, high-quality imports from China. But they ran into resistance from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who took a conciliatory tone on the subject when he met with Xi in Beijing last month.

Several German automakers have large production bases in China, which is also one of their most important markets. They fear that if the EU imposes prohibitive tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, China could retaliate in ways that harm their business.

Although the dispute between China and the EU over industrial policy is difficult, both sides have experience in trade negotiations and Macron suggested this week that Beijing and Washington were also protectionist on trade.

We are 10 times more open than the Americans or the Chinese. The upshot is that today we must behave respectfully towards China in commercial terms, but in a way that defends our interests, is reciprocal and promotes national security. Very clearly, on electric vehicles, photovoltaics and wind power, I defend the investigations which have been opened by the European Commission, he declared to The Economist.

The issue that has soured EU-China relations more than any other is Beijing's support for Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. China is officially neutral in the war and does not provide weapons in Moscow, but it proposed diplomatic and economic solutions. support.

Later this month, Xi will welcome Russian President Vladimir Putin to Beijing, more than two years after proclaiming their boundless friendship. Beijing's interests do not require a Russian victory in the war, but Xi does not want to see the conflict end in a way that would weaken Russia.

In his interview with The Economist, Macron said he wanted to involve China in a new initiative against nuclear proliferation. It is likely that Xi will respond favorably to such a proposal and encourage any move that demonstrates Europe's strategic independence from the United States.

Xi's visit to Hungary will strengthen his friendship with Prime Minister Viktor Orban and seek to encourage him to raise his voice within the EU against economic measures against China. Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer BYD recently expanded its operations in Hungary to include the production of passenger cars as well as trucks.

Xi's visit to Serbia will coincide with the 25th anniversary of the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, which killed three journalists. Washington apologized and said it dropped the five targeted bombs by mistake, but an investigation by the Observer and Danish daily Politiken concluded it was deliberate.

The Chinese leader will likely use the opportunity to denounce what he calls bloc politics and present NATO as an aggressive organization, a view shared in much of the Global South.

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