The big story of the week was the simultaneous visits to Beijing by French President Macron and the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Macron was surprisingly forthright in his comments on Ukraine given the fact that he had a slew of business people with him eager to sign deals with the Chinese. But he said what he wanted to say on Ukraine, which was that “this is a war that involves all of us because a member of the Security Council has decided to violate the UN charter, we cannot accept that.” He called on Mr Xi to “bring back Russia to reason.” The European Commission head echoed Macron’s points, while emphasizing that China is a very important trading partner for the EU. The Chinese leader’s response was that all sides have reasonable security concerns. But in spite of the robust French position, several agreements including one for the sale of lots of Airbus aircraft were signed. Does this all indicate a nudging of the Chinese position away from the stance it has maintained over the past year?
Von der Leyen addressed the growing European trade deficit with China, IP rights issues and the problems European companies face in the China market, but also said that decoupling is neither desirable or viable. The European relationship with China is far more nuanced than US-China and a better bellwether of how successful the Chinese overall foreign policy approach is. The timing and nature of the end of the Ukraine conflict will have a profound impact on this and so much else.
Have a great springy weekend.
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