Xi Jinping Embarks on European Tour Amid Tensions with EU and Russia-Ukraine Crisis

Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit France, Serbia, and Hungary from May 5 to 10, 2024, marking his first trip to Europe since the COVID-19 pandemic. The visit will focus on key issues including the Russia-Ukraine crisis, economic competition, and human rights.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Xi Jinping Embarks on European Tour Amid Tensions with EU and Russia-Ukraine Crisis

Xi Jinping Embarks on European Tour Amid Tensions with EU and Russia-Ukraine Crisis

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to visits to France, Serbia, and Hungary from May 5 to 10, 2024, marking his first trip to Europe since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This visit comes at a time when Europe's approach to China has significantly changed, with sentiments toward China souring amid increased geopolitical and economic competition.

Why this matters: Xi's European tour will have significant implications for the global balance of power, as it may influence the Russia-Ukraine crisis and shape the EU's stance on China's growing economic influence. The outcome of this visit could also impact the future of international relations, as China seeks to navigate its complex relationships with European nations and the US.

The deterioration of China-Europe relations can be attributed to several factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic and China's handling of its diplomacy during that period. In 2019, Xi visited Italy, and Rome officially signed on to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), becoming the first G7 member country to do so. However, in late 2023, the Italian government withdrew from the BRI, citing that the initiative had not brought the promised benefits.

Xi's European tour is expected to focus on several key issues, including the Russia-Ukraine crisis, economic competition, and human rights. China has vocally insisted on its neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, but its frequent high-profile diplomatic exchanges with Russia suggest otherwise. The EU is also scrutinizingChinese investment in the continent, and the European Commission has opened a series of trade investigations that could result in penalties on China's clean tech exports. The European Parliament voted to freeze the ratification process of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) in response to China's human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

During his visit to France, Xi will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss international crises, trade issues, and cooperation in various fields. The French government has announced that exchanges will focus on the war in Ukraine, the situation in the Middle East, scientific, cultural, and sporting cooperation, and the climate emergency. Macron is expected to discuss the Olympic truce during the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris this summer and will ask Xi for his help to make that a reality. He may also invite China to participate in a high-level peace conference on the Russia-Ukraine war in mid-June.

Xi's visits to Serbia and Hungary are described as "softball" compared to the France visit, given China's strong ties with these countries. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic expressed his enthusiasm for Xi's upcoming state visit, stating that it will bring new hope to Serbia's development. Vucic praised China's assistance to Serbia in various fields, including medicine, healthcare, and economic development, and reiterated Serbia's support for China's position on safeguarding its core interests and major concerns, including the one-China principle on the Taiwan question.

Xi will be in Serbia on May 7, the 25th anniversary of a NATO airstrike that hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the bombing of then Yugoslavia, which may be marked by some vitriol aimed at the United States and its allies. China has been a strong supporter of Serbia, with the HBIS Serbia steelworks in Smederevo contributing significantly to Serbia's economic development and China providing assistance to Serbia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Xi embarks on his European tour, the world will be closely watching the interactions between China and its European counterparts. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian emphasized China's stance on the Ukraine crisis, stating,"China is neither a creator of the Ukraine crisis nor a party to it. We have never done anything to fan the flames or seek profit from the crisis. The spokesperson's remarks highlight China's desire to maintain a neutral position in the conflict.

However, an unnamed source suggests that Ukraine will feature prominently in Xi's discussions in Europe, especially in France. The high-level peace conference on the Russia-Ukraine war, scheduled for mid-June in Switzerland, may provide an opportunity for China to play a more active role in resolving the conflict.

As tensions between China and the EU continue to simmer, Xi's European tour will serve as a pivotal test of China's diplomatic prowess and its ability to thread the complex geopolitical maze. The outcome of this visit will have far-reaching implications for China-Europe relations and the global balance of power in the years to come.

Key Takeaways

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit France, Serbia, and Hungary from May 5-10, 2024.
  • Xi's European tour to focus on Russia-Ukraine crisis, economic competition, and human rights.
  • EU scrutinizing Chinese investment, trade practices, and human rights record.
  • Xi to meet with French President Macron to discuss international crises and cooperation.
  • Outcome of visit to impact China-Europe relations and global balance of power.