China's Xi Jinping in Europe: Unveiling the Objectives of His Three-Country Tour

The visit of the Chinese leader to Europe began on Monday in Paris, where he met with French President Emmanuel Macron, and a trilateral meeting was held with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen

by Sededin Dedovic
China's Xi Jinping in Europe: Unveiling the Objectives of His Three-Country Tour
© Kiran Ridley / Getty Images

The visit of the Chinese leader to Europe began on Monday in Paris, where he met with French President Emmanuel Macron. A trilateral meeting was also held with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, followed by a state banquet in the evening at the Élysée Palace, as reported by The Guardian in its live blog.

Today, Macron took Xi to the Turmalet pass at 2,000 meters in the Upper Pyrenees mountains, an area where the French president spent holidays in his childhood with his grandmother. The two last met in April 2023 during Macron's three-day state visit to China.

From Paris, Xi travels to Belgrade for talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, and on Thursday to Budapest to meet with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Both countries are pro-Russian and major recipients of Chinese investments.

Officially, Xi's visit to Paris aimed to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between France and China: France was the first Western country to officially recognize the People's Republic of China on January 27, 1964.

President of the Peoples Republic of China Xi Jinping (L) walks past French Republican Guards as he arrives at the Élysée Pala© Kiran Ridley / Getty Images

His visit to Belgrade coincides with the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Serbia, where three people died after a US attack accidentally hit the complex during NATO's air campaign against Serbian forces occupying Kosovo.

In Serbia, where China is the largest single source of inward investment, it is believed that Xi will play an anti-American and anti-NATO agenda – one reason why China maintains its support for Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.

In Hungary, Xi will underline the close economic and diplomatic ties between the two countries, including security cooperation, and discuss progress on the Belt and Road Initiative, which includes a high-speed rail link between Budapest and Belgrade.

Hungary, a vocal supporter of China that has blocked some EU proposals critical of Beijing's human rights record, hosts the largest Huawei base outside China and will soon host the first European factory of the car manufacturer BYD.

The visit is overshadowed by EU concerns about China's support for Russia two years after the war against Ukraine, and Beijing's concerns about the bloc's economic security agenda, including the threat of high tariffs on Chinese imports.

Beijing, on the other hand, aims to prevent the threat of European tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles following an EU investigation into state support for industry in China. Studies show that Chinese subsidies are between three and nine times higher than those of other major economies.

Human rights groups have said that issues regarding Tibet and Xinjiang, where according to UN belief China has committed crimes against humanity by detaining up to a million ethnic Uighur Muslims in re-education camps, must be raised.

Most analysts doubt that the EU and its messages about the looming trade dispute and Chinese support for Russia regarding Ukraine will make much headway with Xi, whose visit appears designed to exploit internal divisions within the bloc.

China's economy is facing some difficulties, and the US is becoming increasingly reluctant to open up to Chinese companies, meaning the EU might have some leverage, but its 27 members are not fully aligned on China policy, undercutting their influence.

Macron advocates a more aggressive EU stance on subsidies and has warned that the bloc risks falling behind without subsidies, but other leaders, such as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, emphasize the importance of the Chinese market for their own exporters.

Janka Ortel from the European Council on Foreign Relations assesses that Xi's visit to Paris "is unlikely to have a significant impact on China's behavior." And Shen Dingli, an analyst from Shanghai, said that his visits to Belgrade and Budapest are part of China's efforts to deepen divisions in the West.

Chinese President Xi Jinping begins a two-day official visit to Serbia today, at the invitation of President Aleksandar Vucic, with whom he will discuss the enhancement of bilateral relations and cooperation. Xi Jinping was elected President of China by the National People's Congress in 2013.

Immediately upon taking office, Xi embarked on a diplomatic visit to Russia, Tanzania, South Africa, and the Republic of Congo. In 2015, Xi abolished the 'one-child policy' that had been in place for 35 years. Before its abolition, the policy aimed at population control.

Ethnic minorities were exempted, and it was applied to 36% of the population, while 53% of the Chinese population could have a second child if the first was female. According to the Washington Post, after becoming General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Xi significantly intensified censorship of media.

Xi Jinping Europe Emmanuel Macron