During his first state visit to China this week, French President Emmanuel Macron brought with him two key messages, analysts said.
One message was about the huge possibilities cooperation between China and Europe could bring and his commitment to that effort. The other, a warning to not underestimate growing concern and frustration in Europe – and elsewhere – with what many regard as China's unfair trade practices such as investment restrictions in many sectors that are not blocked in countries overseas.
Matheiu Duchatel, deputy director of the Asia and China Program at the European Council of Foreign Relations said President Macron's visit goes beyond France. “He wants to present himself as a leader of the EU, 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,” Duchatel said.
Despite the Brexit referendum, Catalonia's push for independence and the broader rise of populist parties, Duchatel said that now – more than before – governments in Europe are voicing concern about China's trade practices.
And it is not just Europe, but the United States and Australia as well, he adds, noting that China now faces a “united front from developed countries against its unfair trade practices.”
In China, President Macron went to great lengths to highlight his desire to meld both the interests of Europe and China, presenting China's leader Xi Jinping with a gift of a horse, an eight-year old gelding named Vesuvius.
Macron pledged to visit China at least once every year while in office and said that he is determined to “get the Europe-China relationship into the 21st Century.”
The two signed several major trade deals during the visit, that included fields such as food, nuclear power and aerospace.
President Xi said the two countries will deepen their “strategic cooperation.”