Opinion | Xi stretches out his hand to Macron, Europe's loneliest leader
By Augustus K. Yeung
It's not Europe's best time; it is the worst in modern times. And yet why would Xi Jinping stretch out his hand to Macron, Europe's loneliest leader?
Of all the European leaders, Macron, the French President and the German Chancellor are the most outstanding. Both have openly and insightfully advocated the essence of economic engagements with China. But only Macron dares to defy anti-China sentiments in Washington.
Historically, France under Charles De Gaulle advocated nationalism after World War II. His spirit of independence lives on, making France a proud nation. For example, it was the first major power to recognize China; this characterizes France's sense of independence among European nations.
The "backstabbing" US stealing of his submarine business deal with Australia under former PM Scott Morrison, who without thinking toed the American anti-China foreign policy was a hard-hit on the head of Macron, who lost both the ludicrous business deal and suffered the loss of face.
The Russia-Ukraine war was an unproductive and unwelcomed war for Macron, who flew to Moscow for talks with Putin several times in futile efforts to avert the war.
Again, it was the Americans that stole the show: US President Joe Biden came out forcefully – determined to go full out to war, branding "in full support of Ukraine sovereignty" (his persistent theme), Biden's diabolical dictate for NATO.
As a lone voice among the many US-led European counties, Macron's peace overture has since been drummed out.
NATO's anti-Russia war cry and the US anti-China policy have both worked against the wisdom of an independent Macron, making him the loneliest leader in EU.
Macron's Stance on Close Relationship with China Won Him Xi's Invitation for a State Visit
"In a bid to reset ties with Europe, Beijing is expected to launch a charm offensive to woo French President Emmanuel Macron, who landed in the capital yesterday for a three-day state visit," reported the Post.
"Chinese observers said a rare meeting between Macron and President Xi Jinping to be held outside the capital tomorrow highlighted Beijing's enthusiasm towards the French leader and his attempt to carve his own 'third way' of handling China without being confrontational."
Speaking upon his arrival in Beijing, Macron indicated France would seek engagement with China, especially in commercial areas. "We must not dissociate ourselves, separate ourselves from China," Macron said, adding that France would "commit proactively to continue to have a commercial relationship with China".
Macron also said China "had a major role" to play in finding an end to the Ukraine war.
"After an official meeting and a state dinner with Xi today, Macron will travel to Guangzhou tomorrow, where the two are expected to have another sit-down and a private dinner."
Macron will also meet Chinese investors, and answer questions from some 1,000 Chinese students at Sun Yat-sen University.
French officials said preparations had been "smoother and friendlier" than Macron's previous China trips.
China's media have hailed Macron's excursion to the southern metropolis as proof of close ties between Beijing and Paris.
Why Was Xi Meeting Macron a Second Time in Guangzhou?
"Macron's meeting with Xi in Guangzhou underlines the importance both sides have attached to this visit," said Cui Hongjian, director of European studies at the China Institute of International Studies, a think tank affiliated with the foreign ministry.
It is rare for Xi to meet foreign dignitaries outside Beijing: Xi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had their first two-day "informal summit" in Wuhan in April 2018, including at least four one-on-one meetings…; also, in 2018, Xi and the Russian President Vladimir Putin took a high-speed train to Tianjin, the northern municipality neighboring Beijing, and watched an ice hockey game together...
Macron was the first sitting French president to visit Guangzhou. Cui said the province was chosen because of its unique position in China's economic development as well as in Sino-French ties.
(France was China's third-largest trading partner in the European Union last year, following Germany and the Netherlands, and Guangdong accounts for about a fifth of China's total trade with France.)
"By visiting some French-invested projects in Guangdong, Macron's visit will give him a better understanding of the new phase of China's open-door policy and high-level bilateral cooperation and help France and Europe to build confidence in cooperation with China," Cui said. (Source: SCMP)
With Macron's visits to Beijing and Guangzhou, the Washington-dominated Western forum has suddenly swung from the war in Ukraine to that of an independent-minded French President dominating the talks of the town.
Macron's visit to Beijing was an appetizer; the subsequent trip to the South, and dinner with Xi was the main course…
Macron was "mobbed by university students" who had gathered to welcome "the flamboyant president". His visit to Sun Yat-sen University is now compared with Obama's visit to Peking University.
Macron's state-visit, speech and stupendous charm in China would go on fermenting.
Xi's second meeting with Macron in Guangzhou will probably be more focused on economic and trade cooperation, as both men are pro-business.
A mainland-based political analyst, who requested anonymity, said Beijing's special treatment of Macron showed it had high hopes for the French leader – in helping bridge differences between China and Europe.
"China needs Europe in the midst of its rivalry with the US. And from China's perspective, Macron, who has advocated close economic ties with China and touted the benefits of not picking sides between China and the US, help repair ties between Beijing and Brussels," he said.
In comparison and by contrast, Macron would feel that Xi's hand is warm and sincere, which gives Biden's bullying behavior a blemish.
The atmosphere in Europe is anti-Russia; inevitably, the mood is anti-China. But with the rise of China's reputation and Macron's efforts there may be a twist and turn toward peace in Eastern Europe, and Beijing's commercial relationships with Brussels. Then again, there is the leader who's afraid that "Beijing's playing one European leader against another."