French President Macron concludes second state visit to China

$20B in deals signed . . .

Almost two years after his first state visit to China in January 2018, and following President Xi Jinping’s visit to Paris in March, French President Emmanuel Macron wrapped up today a successful three-day trip to Shanghai and Beijing. After attending China’s International Import Expo in Shanghai, Macron headed to Beijing for talks with Xi today where they signed C$20B worth of commercial deals in the fields of aeronautics, energy, and agriculture. They also showed a united front opposing protectionism and supporting the importance of the Paris accord, from which the U.S submitted notice Monday that it is withdrawing.

Looking for a balanced approach . . .

Similar to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to China in September, the French president is looking to strike a balanced approach between promoting France’s commercial interests in China while presenting a united front with the European Union over a common list of grievances. That list includes risks associated with technology transfers, reciprocity in trade and improved market access for E.U. companies in China, and Chinese state subsidies. The EU-China Strategy published earlier this year highlights these concerns and brands China as a ‘systemic rival.’ President Macron subsequently declared an end to “Europe’s naïveté” towards China, and the end of Europe’s uncoordinated approach towards Beijing.

What’s next for Europe-China relations?

Just as a new report suggests the U.S. risks becoming isolated unless it works with its European allies to oppose China’s unfair economic policies and address challenges posed by China’s growing global wealth and power, Macron’s trip to China highlights how difficult it will be for European countries and Western powers to co-ordinate their approach towards China as specific domestic realities will drive their engagement with Beijing. It also remains to be seen if the E.U. will be able to manage a lasting and united front where China is concerned.