Xi Jinping and Emmanuel Macron try to revive Sino-European cooperation, despite sanctions

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by telephone on Tuesday, October 26, with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, and their reports differ less on the tone – the time is more for cooperation than for systemic rivalry – than on the contents. According to the Chinese statement, Xi Jinping indicated that “China attaches great importance to the development of its relations with France”. The Chinese text also starts in areas in which bilateral cooperation could be strengthened: civil nuclear power, aeronautics, but also artificial intelligence, biopharmacy and ocean affairs. He also advocates for the development of “Tripartite cooperation in Africa and elsewhere”.

But, at a time when German Chancellor Angela Merkel is leaving power, and where France will take the rotating presidency of the European Union (EU) in the first half of 2022, the main thing for China is to improve. a relationship with Europe which has deteriorated since March. Brussels then had sanctioned representatives of Chinese power in Xinjiang, due to the repression of the Uighur minority, and, in retaliation, Beijing had targeted diplomats, parliamentarians and European researchers. In a thinly veiled reference to the Franco-American dispute over the sale of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, Xi Jinping said “The many major international events of recent times have once again demonstrated the fact that France is right to promote the strategic autonomy of the European Union”.

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For its part, the Elysee press release begins with European issues: “The Head of State called for continuing to rebalance the Eurochinese relationship in the direction of greater reciprocity, in particular in terms of market access. “ Emmanuel Macron « also called on China to adopt a constructive approach by lifting the coercive measures taken against member states of the European Union and representatives of European institutions and the European Parliament, as well as by keeping the commitments made on the ratification of the conventions of the European Union. ‘International Labor Organization [OIT] and the fight against forced labor ”.

The latter request was one of the conditions set by the Twenty-Seven, led by France, for the conclusion, at the end of 2020, of a controversial agreement between China and the EU on investments. But, in May, the European Parliament conditioned its ratification on the lifting of sanctions taken by Beijing against MEPs. A request taken over by the Elysee, before considering any resumption of the debates on the agreement.

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