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Von der Leyen and Macron in Beijing: a tale of two EU’s

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron are in Beijing for a so called ‘key visit’

By: N. Peter Kramer - Posted: Wednesday, April 5, 2023

It will be difficult for Von der Leyen and Macron to show one EU face.
It will be difficult for Von der Leyen and Macron to show one EU face.

N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron are in Beijing for a so called ‘key visit’. They have different agendas. These differences go beyond the people they are meeting, as the two leaders engaged in different rhetoric ahead of the trip.

Von der Leyen was briefed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. She will sing the usual song and let Chinese President Xi and Premier Li know, that ‘The EU wants peace that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity’. The problem is, that the Chinese leaders know her opinion already and also that she immediately rejected China’s peace proposal as ‘simply not a viable’ plan…

A few hours before he left for Beijing, Macron spoke on the phone with US President Joe Biden. They agreed they wanted China to contribute more to ‘north-south solidarity’ and to finance the poorest countries in the world. They also wanted to work with China to tackle challenges around climate and biodiversity.

It will be difficult for Von der Leyen and Macron to show one EU face. While Macron brings with him fifty business executives and his team is finalising deals with China, the Commission President will tell the Chinese leaders that in her opinion the EU has to get ‘bolder’ on China and to de-risking EU’s dependency on an increasingly ‘assertive’ Beijing.

As Spain, Italy, Hungary and Germany for instance have, like France, mostly seen their relationship with China through a business lens, it will be easy for President Xi to divide and rule.

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