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Xi Jinping arrived in Paris.  It had been five years since he had last been in Western Europe.  This is what he wants to achieve.

Xi Jinping arrived in Paris. It had been five years since he had last been in Western Europe. This is what he wants to achieve.

The Chinese leader is scheduled to visit France, Hungary and Serbia. There are very different reasons why each country is chosen.

No country had a strict lockdown like China during the pandemic. The country's leader, Xi Jinping, has traveled little in the past five years, compared to before.

But on Sunday he will come to Western Europe for the first time since 2019.

The visit comes at a time when relations between Europe and China are tense due to several spying scandals and China's support for Russia. At the same time, Europe is more united in its China policy than it has been in a long time, notes Ulf Sverdrup, professor of political science at the BI School of Economics.

– China has traditionally had two main aspirations towards Europe. First, Europe must take a different position from the United States: the transatlantic divide. Second, it pits different European countries against each other, Sverdrup says.

Xi does not visit important countries in the European Union such as Germany and Italy, nor does he visit the European Union capital, Brussels.

Xi is taking his wife, Peng Liyuan, with him on the trip.
Xi's plane at Orly Airport in Paris.

First stop: France

Xi will arrive in Paris on Sunday and will stay there for three days. On Monday, he will meet with President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

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On the Chinese side, the goal of the visit will be, among other things, to avoid a trade war with the European Union. China wants to avoid the European Union imposing high tariffs on electric cars coming from China, says Abigail Fasselier, director of foreign policy at the German-Chinese think tank Merex. Watchman.

Ursula von der Leyen has previously hinted at such a tariff because the EU believes Chinese electric car prices are artificially low due to government subsidies.

– China is also concerned about the position Europe will take if Trump wins the US presidential election and imposes new tariffs on Chinese goods. Ulf Sverdrup says that the European market will then become more important for China.

But what China can offer in return is unclear. Sverdrup points out that what Europe wants is for Xi to put pressure on Putin on the Ukraine issue.

– But many others tried to no avail. Perhaps they will try to persuade China to participate in the peace conference in Geneva in October, or pressure Russia into a truce during the Olympics. Baby steps. Because China says it wants peace, but can they be forced to show it in any way?

Macron, von der Leyen and Xi last met last April in China. When Macron now hosts the Chinese leader, Sverdrup believes it is also about his desire to be seen as a European leader.

Macron was also taken on a visit to the large southern city of Guangzhou when he was in China last year.  Now he wants to take Xi on a private visit to the Haute-Pyrenees mountain region.

Second stop: Serbia

Serbia is the most symbolic place Xi will visit. When he arrives in the capital Belgrade on 8-10 May marks the 25th anniversary of the US bombing of the Chinese embassy in the city.

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Three Chinese journalists were killed in the incident when NATO bombed Serbia during the Kosovo War in 1999. This made China more hostile to NATO, which it shares with a large part of Serbia's population.

China's tense relationship with NATO is often cited as a reason for China's support for Russia in the conflict against Ukraine and NATO.

The visit to Belgrade will be less strategically important than the other two visits on the trip, but it will fit the schedule.

This is how the Chinese embassy looked two days after the bombing.  The bomb is said to have hit the building by accident.
Chinese flags have already been hung in Belgrade ahead of the visit.

Third stop: Hungary

The final stop on the program is Budapest, where Xi will meet one of his closest allies in Europe, Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The relationship between the two countries has become close in recent years. China has offered to enter into security cooperation with Hungary, and economic cooperation between them is extensive. Hungary hosts Huawei's largest base outside China, and car manufacturer BYD will soon open its first European factory in Hungary.

He writes that Orban has sought closer ties with China since returning to power in 2010 France 24. The nationalist Orban also opposed the EU's official position on Russia.

Xi Jinping's meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in 2019.