“There will not be an iota of change in Xi Jinping’s stance on international issues.” Emmanuel Lincot made this prediction about the Chinese leader’s visit to Paris to DW before Xi set foot on French soil.

Emmanuel Lincot is a China expert at the International Institute for Strategic Relations in Paris. And he was right. At least publicly, Xi Jinping, the head of the Communist Party and President of China, did not indicate that he was responding to the concerns and accusations of his European counterparts.

For example, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron warned during their meeting with Xi in the Elysée Palace that China must offer fair competitive conditions for European companies. Chinese electric cars should not be heavily subsidized in order to sell them on the European market.

The EU Commission has carried out an investigation into the alleged car subsidies. If the results, which are likely to be published in July, are correct, the EU could impose punitive tariffs or levies on vehicles from China.

The Chinese guest only let it be known in Paris via his official news agency Xinhua that the “structurally induced overproduction” accused by the EU Commission did not exist and that therefore no subsidized products were being brought to Europe in order to utilize overcapacity in China.

Xi Jinping can remain relatively calm because electric cars from China currently represent a relatively small part of the total trade volume of the world’s two largest trading partners. Last year, EU states imported goods from China worth 514 billion euros.

The EU exported goods worth 223 billion euros to the People’s Republic. China achieved a whopping export surplus of almost 300 billion euros.

China’s export volume to the EU has doubled in the past ten years. The economic ties are close. And it should stay that way, said French President Emmanuel Macron.

As a confirmation, supply contracts for European Airbus aircraft were signed by the Chinese delegation. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recalled the official line of the Europeans, which is: reduce the risk of being dependent on an autocratically ruled China, but do not decouple yourself from good economic relations with China. Called “derisking, no decoupling” in EU jargon.

“Relations with China are complex. We approach them with a clear view, constructively and responsibly, because a fair China is good for all of us,” said von der Leyen after her three-way meeting with President Xi and Macron. French President Emmanuel Macron said before the meeting that Europe’s future depends on its ability to develop a balanced relationship with China.

The EU also wants China to play a constructive role in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. EU representatives demand that China should use its influence on Moscow and, above all, refrain from supplying goods that could be used by the Russian army in attacks on Ukraine.

Xi did not address the request directly, but said China neither created the Ukraine crisis nor is it taking sides. Rather, China is working “tirelessly” on a way to make peace talks possible.

Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who were guests in Beijing just three weeks ago, said they want to treat China as a systemic rival, economic competitor and partner in climate protection. This doesn’t impress Chinese leader Xi Jinping. He said in Paris that he wants a good relationship with Europe.

However, Janka Oertel, Asia expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECRE) think tank in Brussels, explained: “Xi is not here to repair relations.” In his opinion everything is fine.

Xi argues that there is no overcapacity and that Chinese deliveries to Russia are normal trade. Xi Jinping said in Paris that in a “turbulent world” a partnership dialogue between Europe and China is more necessary than ever.

China is keen to use the different attitudes in Europe to its own advantage. It is no coincidence that Xi Jinping is traveling from France to Hungary, where the increasingly Russia-friendly autocrat Viktor Orban rules. China will build its first electric car factory in the EU in Hungary.

Hungary is happy about the investment and Xi Jinping can use his own factory to elegantly avoid possible import tariffs for cars that the EU could increase as part of its anti-dumping investigation. Hungary has already taken a clear stance against punitive tariffs and adopted the Chinese stance.

German Chancellor Scholz is also not necessarily a fan of higher tariffs against Chinese cars. Because then he would have to expect Chinese countermeasures against German companies. Most exports of electric cars from Germany, around 20 percent, went to Chinese customers last year.

Human rights, the situation of the Uighur minority in China or the tensions in the South China Sea may have been discussed in the one-to-one or six-person talks between Emmanuel Macron, Ursula von der Leyen and Xi Jingping, but the sensitive topics were not commented on publicly.

Just this much from Ursula von der Leyen: “We had an open and honest discussion about the points on which we agree and those on which we have differences.” In clear terms, this means that people have expressed their opinions to each other without making any progress.

Author: Bernd Riegert

*The article “China’s President Xi in Europe: Difficult dialogue” is published by Deutsche Welle. Contact the person responsible here.