European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron made a joint three-day visit to China to change Beijing’s foreign policy stance to a more pro-Western one. The Europeans approached this task with all seriousness.
The visit was preceded by an informational “artillery preparation”, in which Ursula von der Leyen was assigned the role of the “first gun”. “We get 98 percent of the rare earths we need from China, 93 percent of magnesium from China, 97 percent of lithium from China… So if we want to be independent, we urgently need to strengthen and diversify our supply chains with like-minded partners,” – the head of the European Commission said earlier, imitating the example of US President Joe Biden, who took care of this problem two years ago.
And just before the visit to Beijing, the head of the European Commission made a series of tough statements against China. “The goal of the Chinese Communist Party is clearly a systemic change in the international order with the PRC at its center. China has held positions in various organizations that demonstrate its determination to impose an alternative vision of the world order,” she said. According to the sincere conviction of the Europeans, the existing “world order” is to follow the will of the United States, and if Washington demands capitulation from Moscow, then putting forward some alternative peace plans to resolve the situation in Ukraine undermines this “order”.
Von der Leyen issued an ultimatum to Beijing, saying that China’s relationship with the EU depends on its relationship with Russia. In addition, she made it clear that she was ready to raise the issue of human rights in China, and stated that pressure on Taiwan was unacceptable.
However, Beijing did not cancel the visit of the head of the European Commission. And the Chinese Ambassador to the EU, Fu Cong, in an interview with the New York Times on the eve of the visit, made it clear that China does not support the military operation in Ukraine and does not recognize Russian sovereignty over the Crimea, DPR, LPR, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions. In addition, he said, as quoted by the NYT, that claims of cooperation between China and Russia without restrictions “is nothing more than rhetoric.” This was taken as a public hint that bargaining over Sino-Russian relations was appropriate. However, the Chinese representation to the EU, without directly refuting the words of the ambassador, tried to reduce the negative effect, telling TASS that “the article in The New York Times does not fully reflect the interview, which lasted for an hour.”
Macron represented a more moderate line of European foreign policy. Paris itself has recently suffered from its refusal to join the anti-Chinese military alliance AUKUS (US, UK and Australia). As part of the alliance, Washington offered its nuclear submarines to Canberra, and Australia terminated a $66 billion contract with France for the supply of submarines. Thus, against the background of Ursula von der Leyen, Macron looked like a relatively “good gendarme.”
In Beijing, von der Leyen and Macron held a joint meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, then each had a face-to-face meeting with the Chinese leader. Judging by the statements made, and most importantly, not made by the high parties, it was not possible to achieve significant concessions from the Chinese leader. Xi Jinping did not abandon his peace plan to resolve the situation in Ukraine and did not make anti-Russian statements. “There is no panacea to get out of the crisis, all parties need to start with themselves and create conditions for ending the war and for peace negotiations, developing mutual trust,” the Chinese leader said. “During our talks today, I stressed that I strongly support President Zelensky’s peace plan,” Von der Leyen said. As is known, “President Zelensky’s peace plan” is actually a demand for Russia to surrender and pay reparations. The only concession to the Europeans was Xi Jinping’s promise to talk to Volodymyr Zelensky, but only when the time comes for this and the conditions are formed.
Against the backdrop of rapidly deteriorating relations with the United States, which have taken a course on the technological strangulation of advanced Chinese industry, Beijing does not lose hope for maintaining trade relations with the EU. At the same time, the Chinese leadership prefers to ignore the shouts from Brussels, following the logic of the saying “The dog barks, but the caravan moves on.” “China will work with France to deepen cooperation in the field of agricultural products, aviation, space and peaceful atom, create new growth points of cooperation such as trade in services, green development and scientific and technological innovation, support the joint construction of a carbon neutrality center and strengthen joint training of personnel,” the Xinhua news agency reported following the talks between the leaders of China and France.