Macron gives Ukraine top priority as Chinese leader Xi Jinping pays a state visit to France

PARIS– French President Emmanuel Macron will try to apply pressure ChinaXi Jinping wants to use his influence to persuade Russia to end the war Ukraine during a two-day state visit to France. Both leaders were also expected to discuss trade disputes over electric cars, cognac and cosmetics.

Macron’s office said discussions on diplomatic efforts to support Ukraine and put pressure on Russia were a top priority for France. Discussions will also cover the Middle East, trade issues and global challenges including climate change. The President of the European Commission will attend part of the meetings to raise broader EU concerns.

France is the first stop on a European tour by Xi aimed at rebuilding ties at a time of global tensions. After France on Monday and Tuesday, the Chinese head of state will travel to Serbia and Hungary.

France hopes the talks will help persuade China to use its influence over Moscow to “help resolve the conflict” in Ukraine, according to a French presidential official. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently announced plans to visit China this month.

Macron will pressure Xi despite EU sanctions over supplies from Chinese companies to support Russia’s war effort, he said. China claims neutrality in the Ukraine conflict.

France also wants China to maintain a dialogue with Kiev, added the official, who was not allowed to be named publicly under presidential policy.

Last year, Macron appealed to Xi to “bring Russia to reason” – but the call was followed by no noticeable change in Beijing’s stance.

“The French authorities pursue two goals that are ultimately contradictory,” wrote Marc Julienne, director of the Center for Asian Studies at the French Institute of International Relations, in a briefing note. “On the one hand, it is about convincing Xi that it is his interest to help the Europeans put pressure on Vladimir Putin to end the war, and on the other hand, dissuading the Chinese president from selling weapons to his Russian friend to deliver.

“In short, we believe that Xi can help us, but at the same time we fear that he could help Putin,” Julienne wrote.

As France prepares to host the Summer Olympics, Macron said he would ask Xi to use his influence to make the games “a diplomatic moment of peace” and respect the Olympic ceasefire.

Macron, a strong supporter of Europe’s economic sovereignty, is also expected to focus on trade. He will express France’s concerns about a Chinese anti-dumping investigation into cognac and other European brandy, as well as tensions over French cosmetics and other sectors.

In a recent speech, he condemned the trade practices of both China and the United States as propping up protections and subsidies.

He has coordinated with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who recently visited China and came to Paris last week for a private dinner with the French president.

Government spokesman Wolfgang Büchner said on Friday that Scholz had “clearly stated in China that the issue of overcapacity and competition must be addressed through subsidies.”

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

The discussions are also being closely watched from Washington, just a month before President Joe Biden is expected to make his own state visit to France.

Xi’s visit to Paris marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between France and China and follows Macron’s trip to China in April 2023. Macron sparked controversy on that trip after he said France would not blindly follow the US when it came to this is going to get involved in crises that are not of its concern, an apparent reference to China’s demands for unification with Taiwan.

Several groups, including the International Campaign for Tibet and the French Human Rights League, called on Macron to put human rights issues at the center of his talks with Xi. As Xi arrived on Sunday, demonstrators demonstrated in Paris demanding a free Tibet.

Amnesty International called on Macron to demand the release of Uyghur economics professor Ilham Tohti, sentenced to life in prison in 2014 for promoting separatism, and other detained activists.

Macron said in an interview published on Sunday that he would raise human rights concerns.

On Monday, Xi will first take part in a meeting with Macron and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Paris.

A solemn ceremony will then take place at the Invalides Monument before bilateral talks take place at the Elysee Presidential Palace. Macron and Xi will conclude a local Franco-Chinese economic forum and then join their wives for a state dinner.

The second day of the visit is intended to be a more personal moment.

Macron invited Xi to visit the Tourmalet pass in the Pyrenees on Tuesday, where the French leader spent time as a child visiting his grandmother. The trip is said to be a reciprocal gesture after Xi took Macron last year to the residence of the governor of Guangdong province, where his father once lived.


Associated Press writers Angela Charlton in Paris and Stephen Graham in Berlin contributed to the story.

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