Chinese President Xi Jinping called on France to ensure its strategic independence and autonomy as he congratulated Emmanuel Macron on his re-election as French president on Monday. In a phone call with Macron, Xi said he had always viewed China-France relations from a strategic and long-term perspective, and wanted to continue pursuing ties based on “independence, mutual understanding, foresight, mutual benefit and win-win”. “China and France are both great nations with a tradition of independence and autonomy,” he said. “At present, the international situation is undergoing profound and complex changes, and the strategic significance of the healthy and stable development of China-France relations has become increasingly prominent.” Xi praised the development of the bilateral relationship in the past five years under their leadership, saying they jointly safeguarded multilateralism, improved global governance, gave new impetus to the development of China-EU relations, and made new contributions to world peace, stability and prosperity. The call was a shift in focus from Xi’s congratulatory message to Macron five years ago, which focused on the Belt and Road Initiative and the Paris climate accord. But it is in line with the Chinese president’s emphasis in talks with Macron over the past year, in which he has urged France to pursue “strategic autonomy” by taking its own position from the United States. It follows efforts by the Joe Biden administration to strengthen its alliances and partnerships in foreign policy. China and the European Union have been at loggerheads over a wide range of issues, including alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang that led to tit-for-tat sanctions between the two nations and stalled a major investment deal . China has also refused to condemn and sanction Russia for invading Ukraine, adding to suspicions of Beijing. China looks to France for better EU ties amid Lithuania, sanctions tensions Ding Chun, director of the European Studies Centre at Fudan University in Shanghai, said that, nevertheless, Macron’s re-election was good news for China. Compared to his far-right competitor Marine Le Pen, Macron advocates globalisation and multilateral cooperation and supports the China-EU bilateral investment agreement. “He emphasises European strategic autonomy and will play a key role in the Franco-German axis in the post-Merkel era,” Ding said, referring to the former German chancellor. “France will not just follow the US but stick to its autonomy when it comes to China. “But Macron’s push for Europe’s strategic autonomy also means the EU’s overall position towards China, categorised simultaneously as a competitor, rival and partner, is unlikely to change as it continues to see China as a threat and guard against Beijing.” The prospects for China-EU ties might also depend on other geopolitical factors such as the outcome of the Russia-Ukraine war, Ding added. Tsinghua University professor Shi Zhiqin said Macron’s continued push for strategic autonomy would not affect the EU’s warming ties with the US. “The row between Washington and Paris over the Aukus pact last year is unlikely to have a lasting impact on transatlantic cooperation,” Shi said, referring to the scuppering of a French contract to build submarines for Australia. “However, unlike the US, the EU is more pragmatic and balanced when it comes to its approach towards China.” Shi also said China’s relationship with the EU had been relatively stable in recent years despite growing uncertainty in global politics, and Macron’s re-election would be conducive to efforts to revive the shelved China-EU investment pact. “The Ukraine crisis has created fresh uncertainty for China’s ties with the EU. But their differences on the Ukraine war may not hamper their cooperation as both sides understand the importance of bilateral cooperation,” he said. Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin also said on Monday that with Macron’s re-election, China would like to deepen partnerships with European Union countries including France and help bring stability and positive energy to a turbulent world.