Connect with us

Politics & Security

EDITORIAL | Xi Jinping in Europe Spotlights Self-Centered Diplomacy

Xi Jinping embarked on this tour blind to Europe's concern about his hardball tactics and the flood of cheap Chinese imports.



Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Buda Castle in Budapest, Hungary, May 9, 2024. (Courtesy of PM Office/Vivien Cher Benko/Handout via Reuters)

Chinese President Xi Jinping recently paid official visits to France, Serbia and Hungary. This trip may have ended up demonstrating the limits of China's self-centered diplomacy. 

Xi undoubtedly was seeking to strengthen economic ties with Europe, hoping to help the Chinese economy escape its domestic slump. Moreover, he wanted to draw Europe closer to Beijing in order to break out from the American-led circle of containment. 

However, economic issues with Europe remained unresolved. Furthermore, there was no meeting of the minds concerning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Xi would do well to realize that he came up short as far as realizing his goals. 

EU European Commission President von der Leyen, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and French President Macron meet at the Elysée Palace in Paris on May 6. (@Xinhua News Agency/Kyodo News)

Xi's Blind Spot

As Xi's China remains at loggerheads with the United States, developing its trade and economic ties with Europe is critical. Nevertheless, Europeans are increasingly wary as China continues to use hardball tactics, including economic coercion in dealing with other countries. 

One issue is that Europe has reacted strongly to a flood of cheap Chinese imports. These are the result of overproduction based on mammoth subsidies from Beijing. 

European leaders pleaded with Xi to do something to stem the flow. Nevertheless, Xi staunchly rejected the very idea that there was a problem, putting off the possibility of any solution. That left European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen adopting the position that Europe would be willing to take countermeasures if no progress is achieved. 

People visit graves of their relatives, killed Ukrainian defenders, on the day of the second anniversary of Russia's attack on Ukraine, in the town of Bucha, outside Kyiv, Ukraine February 24, 2024. (@Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

Looming Large: Ukraine

The Chinese and European sides also left the impression that they had failed to bridge the deep gulf separating them regarding Ukraine. Following his summit meeting with Xi, French President Emmanuel Macron told a joint press conference that Xi had reiterated an earlier commitment of "not selling weapons in any form to Russia and strictly controlling the export of material that could in any way be used for military purposes." 

For his part, Xi replied that China is not a participant in the conflict. Then he added that China also "opposes using the Ukraine crisis to defame a third party and provoke a new Cold War." 

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Serbia's capital Belgrade and is greeted by President Vučić on May 7. (@Xinhua News Agency/Kyodo News)

Limits of Europe for Xi's Charms

The list of countries Xi chose to visit in Europe highlighted the limits of Chinese diplomacy. 

France, which prides itself on maintaining a diplomacy distinct from that of the United States, was the only major European country he visited. He did not visit the United Kingdom, Germany or even Italy, which currently holds the G7 presidency. 


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had just visited Beijing in April. His trip, however, did not appear to herald any improvement in bilateral relations. In fact, immediately after his return home, the Office of the Federal Prosecutor charged a staff member of the European Parliament with espionage for allegedly providing Chinese intelligence agencies with sensitive information about the European Parliament. 

Serbia  and Hungary are both eager to cultivate closer ties with China. But in general distrust of China runs deep in Europe. Japan, directly faced with the China threat, should also take this into account and seek greater cooperation with Europe. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun