Emmanuel Macron arrives in Beijing on Wednesday in a bid to prevent the Asian giant from “switching to the war camp” on Ukraine.
The French President says he wants to reconnect with China, emphasising the importance of renewed human contact and maintaining dialogue on Ukraine.
Expected in the afternoon, he will begin the trip with a speech outlining the “challenges and objectives” of his trip, which comes two weeks after Beijing renewed its anti-Western alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Macron’s last trip to China was in 2019, before COVID and the draconian lockdown measures imposed by Chinese officials, which were only lifted late last year.
This is why Paris wants “reconnection” at all levels, especially by promoting the flow of students between the two countries, according to AFP.
On Thursday, Macron will have a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, who he has not seen since a G20 summit in November.
Then the French President wanted to see Beijing act as a mediator between warring parties Ukraine and Russia, with Xi using his influence over Putin to sue for peace.
However, a fortnight ago the heads of China and Russia renewed their vows to resist the West, sparking fears in Western capitals that China will provide Russia with arms.
Beijing is officially neutral, though has not condemned Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine that began last February.
In a Euronews report, experts said they believed Beijing would shy away from providing lethal equipment to Russia, fearing it could escalate the conflict and scupper its chances of rebuilding Ukraine.
Before jetting off to Beijing, Macron spoke to US President Joe Biden over the phone, with the two discussing their “common desire to engage China in accelerating the end of the war in Ukraine”, according to the Elysee.
Paris wants Xi to promote “stability” and “prosperity” in the world and, in the long run, “a way” to end the conflict in Ukraine.
The Elysée believes China alone can “tilt” the situation for better or for worse. But also that it is up to Europeans to make the Chinese aware of the “major impact” the war is having on the EU, one of Beijing’s main trading partners.
AFP report that Macron will carry the message: “If you [China] switch to the war camp, it will have an extremely strong strategic impact.”
Like Germany and other EU member states, he wants to continue talking to Beijing in contrast to the more adversarial tone struck by the US.