Observers say French President Emmanuel Macron communicated two important messages during his recent visit to China.
One was about the huge possibilities cooperation between China and Europe could bring and Macron’s support of that effort.
The other was a warning not to underestimate European concern about China’s possibly unfair trade practices. These include Chinese restrictions on investment in many businesses and industries.
Matheiu Duchatel is deputy director of the Asia and China Program at the European Council of Foreign Relations. He said that Macron’s visit will influence actions not only in France, but in other countries also.
“He wants to present himself as a leader” of the European Union (EU),” Duchatel said. “But at the same time, I think he wants to send a signal that Europe and the EU are in better shape than many think in China,” he noted.
Duchatel said that Europe, the United States and Australia are all expressing growing concern about China’s trade practices.
“Many (people) are coming to terms with the reality that China is no longer the factory of the world,” he added. “But it is clearly a country that has very strong ambitions in terms of economic leadership for the world and it is not a market economy.”
He promised to visit China at least once every year while he serves as France’s president. He also said that he is ready to work to “get the Europe-China relationship into the 21st Century.”
The two sides signed major trade deals during the visit. China’s president said the two countries will deepen their “strategiccooperation.”
During his first stop in Xi’an, Macron expressed French support for China’s huge trade and commerce project, the “Belt and Road”initiative.
Xi’an was once the starting point of the Silk Road, the name for roads and transportation links used by traders many centuries ago. In a speech, Macron noted that the ancient Silk Roads were never only Chinese.
“By definition these roads can only be shared,” he told a meeting of business people, students and professors. “If they are roads, they cannot be one-way.”
On Tuesday, Macron met with Alibaba founder Jack Ma and officials of other Chinese and French companies. In a speech, the president talked about the possibilities cooperation could bring. But he warned about the threat of protectionism if changes were not made.