(Beijing) Emmanuel Macron told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Thursday that he was counting on him to “bring Russia to its senses” vis-à-vis Ukraine, with both leaders calling for peace talks.

“I know I can count on you to bring Russia to its senses and bring everyone back to the negotiating table,” the French head of state told Mr. Xi during a bilateral meeting in Beijing.

The two leaders called for peace talks and rejected any recourse to nuclear weapons.

We need “a resumption of talks as soon as possible to build a lasting peace”, said Mr. Macron, Xi Jinping pleading for “a resumption of peace talks as soon as possible”.

The Chinese head of state considered that “nuclear weapons cannot be used” and condemned any “attack against civilians” as well as any “use of biological and chemical weapons, under any circumstances”.

Same tone with President Macron. He recalled that it was “obviously that nuclear power should be totally excluded from this conflict”.

“In this regard, everyone must be reminded of their duties, in particular Russia, which announced the other day that it wanted to deploy such weapons in Belarus, which is not in accordance with the commitments made to you, to us and to the law international,” he added, in statements to the press after their meeting.

Lasting an hour and a half, the latter was described as “frank and constructive” by the French presidency.

Subsequently, a trilateral meeting began in the presence of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, also in Beijing, who will give a press conference in the evening.

At the center of the discussions, once again: the war in Ukraine.

Received in the morning by Prime Minister Li Qiang, Mr. Macron “discussed the conflict in Ukraine”, according to the French presidency. “In these troubled times we are going through,” he stressed “the importance” of “dialogue between China and France.”

In recent weeks, international pressure has mounted a notch on China to encourage it to get involved for peace in Ukraine.

On Thursday, however, the Kremlin ruled out the possibility of Chinese mediation to stop the fighting in Ukraine, because “the situation with Ukraine is complex, there is no prospect of a political settlement.”

If Beijing says it is officially neutral, Xi Jinping has never condemned the Russian invasion or even spoken on the phone with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodomyr Zelensky.

Conversely, he recently went to Moscow to reaffirm his partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the guise of an anti-Western front.

“For the moment, we are, on the Chinese side, in extremely classic declarations”, reacted Thursday to AFP Antoine Bondaz, researcher at the French think tank Foundation for Strategic Research.

“China has clearly not budged. The goal is for China to do what it says, which is not the case at the moment, ”he judges.

In this context, Emmanuel Macron has the ambition to “be a voice that unites Europe”, which is why he says he has invited the President of the European Commission to accompany him.

But will the two strike the same tone?

On the first day of his three-day state visit, the French president said on Wednesday that Beijing could play a “major role” in “finding a path to peace” in Ukraine.

Ursula von der Leyen issued a much harsher warning last week in Brussels: “How China continues to react to Putin’s war will be a determining factor in the future of relations between the EU and China “.

This visit comes at a new moment of tension around the question of Taiwan, just after the meeting, in the United States, between the Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen and the speaker of the American House of Representatives, the Republican Kevin McCarthy.

On Thursday, Beijing promised “firm and forceful measures” and authorities on the island immediately announced that they had detected three warships and a Chinese anti-submarine helicopter nearby.

China considers Taiwan to be one of its provinces, which it intends to eventually bring back into its fold.

President Macron’s trip, which aims to renew face-to-face dialogue after three years at a distance due to the health crisis, will have an important economic component: he came with more than 50 French business leaders, including those of Airbus, EDF and Veolia.

Thursday afternoon, Franco-Chinese agreements in research, cultural cooperation, agriculture and education were concluded. And Airbus will double its aircraft production capacity in China, from 2025, by installing a second aircraft assembly line in Tianjin (north).

An agreement with the Forbidden City has also been announced by the Palace of Versailles for an exhibition in 2024 in China on exchanges between the two countries in the 18th century.

For her part, Ursula von der Leyen recalled via Twitter that “the trade deficit of the EU (vis-à-vis China) is increasing due to discriminatory practices” and said that she had discussed with the Chinese Prime Minister “how rebalance our trade”.