A European diplomatic offensive comes after Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia, where he vowed that Sino-Russian friendship “has no limits”.
“The French president and the head of the European Commission will be welcomed by the Chinese president in Beijing on Thursday.
Their joint trip is the latest in a noticeable push from European leaders to engage with China, which has seen German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez paying visits in recent months.
Like them, Mr Macron and Ms von der Leyen will be pressing Mr Xi on taking further steps to halt the Ukraine war, while also finessing the increasingly fraught trade relationship between the European Union and China, its biggest trading partner.”
Macron and Von der Leyen represent two different European approaches to the present diplomatic challenge represented by China.
After failed attempts at engaging Vladimir Putin, now Macron finds “points of convergence with Chinese proposals” on ending the Ukraine war.
Von der Leyen, on the other hand, has a strong relationship with US President Brandon and is a vocal support for Nato’s position. In a reference to China’s peace plan, she stressed that any solution that consolidates Russian annexations was “simply not viable”.
Macron is leading a large delegation that includes business leaders, and he takes Von der Leyen to assuage widespread skepticism his approach to Russia and China.
Expectations of success in France are moderate, and other Western officials are even more pessimist.
White House officials recalled Macron’s failed attempts to play peacemaker on the eve of the Ukraine war, and anticipate the same lack of results.
“[I]t is unclear what leverage Macron has — and the backdrop to his three-day trip starting Tuesday isn’t easy. Europe continues to reel from the impact of cutting off trade ties with Russia and geopolitical tensions are ratcheting up between China and the U.S., the world’s two biggest economies.
The French president wants to play a more personal card with his Chinese counterpart, after drawing fierce criticism for hours of fruitless phone calls with Putin last year — an effort that failed to stop Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.”