Xi and Macron call for peace talks

After their meeting in Beijing, French President Macron and China's head of state Xi called for swift peace talks between Kiev and Moscow. They also warned of a nuclear escalation.

China’s head of state Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron have pledged to start peace talks between Russia and Ukraine “as soon as possible”. The aim is “to resume talks as quickly as possible for a lasting peace,” Macron said after a bilateral meeting in Beijing.

At a joint press conference, both reaffirmed their rejection of the use of nuclear weapons in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. According to Xi, they called on the international community to avoid an escalation. China’s president also condemns attacks on civilians – but he avoided condemning the Russian aggression.

Macron is currently on a three-day state visit to China and wants to persuade Xi to use his influence with Russia to promote a peace solution in Ukraine. He made this clear during the talks with Xi: “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is a blow to stability,” said Macron. “I know I can count on you to bring sanity to Russia and bring everyone to the negotiating table.”

According to the Elysée Palace, the hour-and-a-half meeting was “open and constructive”. This was followed by a round of three with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who also traveled to China.

“Important role in building peace”

Macron had previously made it clear that, from his point of view, China played “an important role in creating peace”. China has reaffirmed compliance with the UN Charter, which includes territorial integrity and sovereignty of individual countries. “Defending them means moving forward together and trying to find a path to peace,” Macron emphasized in a speech at the French embassy the night before. So far, however, China has not shown any initiative to become more involved or to influence Russia.

Macron referred to the controversial Chinese position paper on the Ukraine conflict presented in February: “Do we agree with that in full? No, but it’s interesting,” said Macron. This shows China’s “willingness to get involved in solving the conflict”.

The 12-point document calls for a ceasefire and a resumption of negotiations. However, it was received critically internationally because it showed no initiative to resolve the conflict, did not condemn the invasion and, with criticism of the West, rather reflected the Russian argument.

China’s backing for Russia

Opening talks with Macron, Xi praised the development of relations between the two permanent members of the Security Council. As large countries with a tradition of independence, China and France have “the ability and responsibility to overcome differences,” Xi said. Both also supported multilateralism. He was convinced that the three-day state visit would also give “new impetus and a new atmosphere” to relations between China and Europe.

China has been providing political backing for President Vladimir Putin since the invasion of Ukraine a good year ago. The alliance also reflects the geostrategic rivalry with the United States. The United States and NATO are portrayed by Beijing as the main culprits in the conflict. While Xi Jinping met with Putin in Moscow two weeks ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has not even spoken on the phone since the beginning of the war.

Fear of economic dependency

Against the background of the bad experiences with the excessive dependence on Russia, there are also growing concerns about the dangers in the widespread economic cooperation with the second largest economy.

Despite all the concerns, the expansion of economic cooperation between France and China is an important topic of Macron’s visit. He is accompanied by a 60-strong, top-class French business delegation – including representatives of the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus, the world’s second largest electricity producer Électricité de France EDF, the train manufacturer Alstom and the waste disposal company and water supplier Veolia.

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