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Emmanuel Macron and Xi Jinping addressed some of the testier issues in EU-China relations during talks on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

In call with Macron, Xi again tells Europeans to take security ‘in their own hands’

  • Xi’s insistence that Europe take responsibility for its security – in what will be seen as a veiled swipe at the US – followed similar remarks to the German chancellor
  • The Chinese and French leaders also agreed on the need for a speedy ceasefire in Ukraine during talks, according to readouts from both sides
For the second time in two days, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged Europeans to take their own security issues “in their own hands”, during talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday.
In a call that addressed some of the testier issues in EU-China relations, the pair agreed on the need to reach a speedy ceasefire in Ukraine, according to readouts from both governments.

A Chinese government account of the call said that Xi and Macron agreed that “all parties concerned should support Russia and Ukraine to restore peace through negotiations”.

The French readout, meanwhile, said they had both “reiterated their commitment to respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and agreed on the urgency of reaching a ceasefire”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping made similar remarks about European security when he spoke to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Photo: Xinhua

But there were no clues in either version as to how such a ceasefire would be achieved in reality, as the war grinds through its third month, as diplomatic efforts flounder, and as China refuses to condemn the Russian aggression.

In a tweet in Chinese, Macron said he had discussed the ongoing Ukraine war with Xi, and their common goals were a ceasefire and respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Following similar remarks made in a video call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday, Xi drilled down on his insistence that Europe take responsibility for their own security, in what will be seen as a thinly veiled swipe at the United States.

The Chinese readout said that “China has been promoting peace talks in its own way, and supports European countries in taking European security into their own hands”.

“We must be particularly vigilant against the formation of group confrontation, which will pose a bigger and more lasting threat to global security and stability,” it continued.

The idea that in Ukraine, Europe’s loss is America’s gain has been propagated by senior Chinese officials.

Ukraine calls for moves to unblock ports and prevent global food crisis

Beijing’s top official for Europe Wang Lutong tweeted last weekend: “With Ukraine conflict happening on European soil, Europe is hurt the first and the most.

“The US, however, is raking in billions with rocketing arms trade and oil and gas sales and seeing financial capital flooding back to America.”

Senior European figures, however, have pushed back against this narrative.

“We condemn Russian aggression against Ukraine and support this country’s sovereignty, democracy – not because we follow the US blindly, as sometimes China suggests, but because it is our position,” the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell told the European Parliament last month.


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Noah Barkin, an analyst of EU-China relations at research house Rhodium Group, said the messaging from Beijing was “completely at odds with the reality on the ground – Beijing has become a bigger fan of European strategic autonomy than the Europeans themselves”.

“At a time when the EU and US are more aligned on security issues than they have been in many years due to Ukraine, China is sending the message to Europe that it should ditch the US and take care of its own security,” Barkin said.

The call came amid a diplomatic flurry between Asian and European leaders.

The EU’s top officials will be in Tokyo for a summit with Japan on Thursday, where China and its positioning on Russia will be on the agenda.

EU and Japan to forge united front against China and Russia at summit

It also comes at a tough moment for EU-China relations. An online summit on April 1 was dismissed by Borrell as a “dialogue of the deaf”.

European leaders have expressed frustration at Beijing’s unwillingness to use its influence to positively affect Russia’s war on Ukraine, as well as a laundry list of pre-existing gripes around trade and human rights.

According to the readout from the Elysee, Macron raised some of these thorny issues with Xi, in contrast to Scholz, whose statement focused largely on areas of cooperation.

He congratulated China on ratifying two forced labour conventions at the International Labour Organization last month, which he said “should now be fully implemented throughout China, especially in Xinjiang”.

French President Emmanuel Macron raised some thorny issues during the call with China’s leader. Photo: Reuters

Macron “recalled France’s expectations regarding the lifting of the sanctions imposed on Lithuania”, while he also urged the Chinese government to stop separating French children from their parents due to coronavirus restrictions, and to permit French people affected by lockdowns to fly back home.

It marked the second time the two leaders spoke since Macron saw off the challenge from right-wing opponent Marine Le Pen to win a second five-year term in the Elysee Palace in late April.

On both occasions, Xi has sought to play up the importance of European strategic autonomy, a favoured policy of Macron’s, who has long championed the idea of a self-sufficient EU on everything from security and defence to supplies of critical technologies.

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In China, it is often read as Europe striking out independently from the United States, and is frequently championed in official government statements.

“The Chinese side appreciates the French side’s adherence to strategic independence, and hopes that the French side will promote the EU to adhere to a correct understanding of China, meet China halfway, properly manage and control differences,” Xi told Macron, according to the Chinese account.

Both sides hoped to expand commercial ties, with China “welcoming financial and hi-tech enterprises” and hoping France would ensure “a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese enterprises to invest and cooperate in France” in return.

France hopes to “deepen the Franco-Chinese projects in the fields of aeronautics and civil nuclear power”, Macron said.