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China's president comes to Europe to revive relations

Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off a three-nation trip to Europe on Sunday, with the continent divided over how to deal with Beijing's growing power and US-China rivalry.


What you need to know

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping is embarking on a three-nation trip to Europe, with the continent divided over how to deal with Beijing's growing power and US-China rivalry
  • European automakers are losing ground to subsidized Chinese electric vehicles. Diplomats are concerned about alleged Chinese spies in European capitals
  • And China's continued arms trade with Russia worries everyone in Europe who supports war-ravaged Ukraine and fears that the Russian army will not stop there
  • But Europe and China have close economic ties and Xi appears committed to rebuilding and deepening ties with European leaders. Xi starts in France on Sunday and then travels to Serbia and Hungary

European automakers are losing ground to subsidized Chinese electric vehicles. Diplomats are concerned about alleged Chinese spies in European capitals. And China's continued arms trade with Russia worries everyone in Europe who supports war-ravaged Ukraine and fears that the Russian army will not stop there.

However, Europe and China have close economic ties – EU-China trade is estimated at 2.3 billion euros a day – and Xi appears determined to strengthen ties with European leaders after a crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to rebuild and deepen the knowledge caused by the prolonged absence.

Xi begins Sunday in France, whose president wants to give Europe more economic and strategic independence from other world powers. The Chinese president then travels to Serbia and Hungary, both of which are considered China-friendly and close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and recipients of significant Chinese investments.

Xi's trip will be closely watched in Washington for signs of waning European support for his key foreign policy goals. At the same time, uncertainty is growing in Europe about the US's future support for transatlantic allies.

Xi is greeted at Paris' Orly airport by French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal – amid protests from groups demanding that France pressure China to respect the rights of Tibetans and Uyghurs. Activists advocating for a free Tibet attempted to unfurl a banner under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Saturday and protested in the French capital around the same time as Xi's plane landed.

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron will bestow the official honor of a full state visit on the Chinese leader. They will also meet with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. She is expected to join Macron in pushing for fairer trade policies and for China to use its influence over Russia to persuade the country to end the war in Ukraine.

The EU launched an investigation into Chinese subsidies last fall and could impose tariffs on electric vehicles exported from China.

China claims neutrality in the Ukraine conflict but refuses to call Russia's all-out attack on its neighbor an invasion and is accused of boosting Russia's weapons production capability.

Anna Harden

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