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After France, Xi Jinping continues his European tour in Serbia

Photo: Aurelien Morissard Pool Associated Press Emmanuel Macron had organized a “personal” getaway with Xi Jinping during the day at the Col du Tourmalet, in the Pyrenees.

Francesco Fontemaggi – Agence France-Presse in Tarbes, France

Published at 9:27 a.m. Updated at 8:56 p.m.

  • Europe

After the gold of the Élysée and local dishes in France, Chinese President Xi Jinping continued his European tour in Serbia on Tuesday evening.

The leader “arrived in Belgrade by special plane on the evening of May 7, to make a state visit,” Chinese public television CCTV reported. An AFP photographer in Belgrade saw his plane land.

Emmanuel Macron had organized during the day a “personal” getaway with Xi Jinping in the Pyrenees, in the southwest of France, on the second day of the Chinese president's state visit, the opportunity for a more direct dialogue on the war in Ukraine or commercial disagreements.

The French president had chosen a place where he has personal ties, the Col du Tourmalet, legendary climb of the Tour de France , to welcome the Chinese presidential couple with his wife, at an altitude of 2,115 meters, under the snow.

Emmanuel Macron offered his counterpart wool blankets from Pyrenees, a bottle of Armagnac, berets, but also a yellow jersey from the Tour de France.

“I know you like sport […] We would be delighted to have Chinese riders on the Tour,” says the French president who welcomes his Chinese counterpart to France for the first time since 2019.

Xi Jinping promises in return to advertise local ham before claiming “I really like cheese”.

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“Fair competition framework”

This Pyrenean escapade is a sort of response to the tea ceremony that the two leaders shared last year, in Guangzhou, in the official residence where the Chinese president's father had lived when he was governor of Guangdong province.

The setting of the Col du Tourmalet, under the snowy fog, in any case offers a striking contrast with the Élysée where, between a welcoming with great pomp and a sumptuous banquet, Emmanuel Macron and Xi Jinping did not seek to hide the differences on trade between Europe and China.

The French president thus called for a “fair competition framework”, welcoming the outcome of the discussions having preserved French cognac from the threat of “provisional” Chinese customs taxes.

Invited to display a united continental front, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen warned that the European Union would take “firm decisions” to “protect its economy”, denouncing the influx of massively subsidized Chinese electric vehicles.

“The so-called 'China overcapacity problem' does not exist,” Xi Jinping replied curtly.

Regarding Ukraine, he is intended to be more consensual, reaffirming its desire to work towards a political solution.

After France, Xi Jinping continues his European tour in Serbia

Photo: Press Service of the Serbian Presidency via Associated Press Xi Jinping with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on May 7, 2024.

And he supported an “Olympic truce” during the Paris Games this summer, also pushed by Emmanuel Macron. According to a French diplomatic source, this truce could serve, with regard to Ukraine, to initiate a more political process after more than two years of conflict.

But Paris, which has insisted for a year that Beijing puts pressure on Russia to help end the war, wants to be “lucid” about the limited chances of a rapid breakthrough. Especially since the Chinese president remains the main ally of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, whom he is due to receive soon.

« Power of seduction »

The French presidency also announced that Emmanuel Macron had discussed with Xi Jinping the very sensitive issue of human rights, in particular “a few individual cases”. It was Monday in Paris, before this Pyrenean day.

This corner of the mountain is “directly linked to the very personal story” of Emmanuel Macron, explains those around him. The man who celebrated the seven years of his first election on Tuesday spent many holidays between the town of Bagnères-de-Bigorre and La Mongie with his grandparents to whom he was very attached.

< p>“Emmanuel Macron’s diplomacy has always relied, perhaps excessively, on the power of seduction,” analyzes Bertrand Badie, specialist in international relations at Sciences Po.

But Xi Jinping, “is not really a great sentimentalist” and no one, so far, “has found the key to Euro-Chinese relations”, warns the researcher.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116