Xi’s visit builds a crucial bridgehead into Europe – Asia Times

Xi's visit builds a crucial bridgehead into Europe - Asia Times

For his first European trip in five decades, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a conscious decision to travel to France, Serbia, and Hungary.

France is one of the most powerful countries in the European Union ( EU), a member of NATO, and a nuclear power. Serbia is not a member of NATO or the EU. Hungary is a member of both, but it is one of the German society’s smaller claims.

Nevertheless, from a Chinese standpoint, the three nations have some significant common features. No least, all three have doubts about American plan. And each of the three state, albeit in various ways, is dissatisfied with the EU.

Moreover, the three are concerned about the difficulties caused by global financial challenges. And lastly, the three countries want to reposition themselves in the continuous geostrategic restructuring.

French President Emmanuel Macron stated in an interview he conducted on his planes a year ago after a three-day state visit to China that” Europe may reduce its dependence on the United States and avoid being dragged into the conflict between China and the United States over Taiwan.

To become a power under the management of France, Europe requires proper autonomy. There is a significant chance that Europe may enter a turmoil unrelated to it. This will reduce the Union from building its corporate autonomy”, Macron said. &nbsp,

France is now attempting to fit in the new circumstances as a result of the international geostrategic reorganization.

Germany’s market is continuously weakening, so Berlin’s foreign influence is decreasing, and its primary role in the EU has almost been called into question. France wants to fill the position.

The EU’s shift away from America and toward China is a crucial component of the Paris program. To maintain France’s separation from Beijing and Washington, the cards is also present in the balcony. China, it goes without saying, is interested in the idea because it views the United States as its main competitor.

Xi’s speaks in Paris, which were not only diplomatic, should be placed in this environment. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission, likewise took part in the conversations.

On May 6, 2024, President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron, along with the heads of the German Commission and China-France-Europe intergovernmental meetings are held at Elysee Palace in Paris, France. Photo: Xinhua

China’s position on the road to development, a theme that is important in Beijing’s foreign policy, is not by accident.

Macron also touched on trade ties at the conference, urging that all Chinese and EU countries have similar trade conditions, particularly because China’s state-supported foreign commerce poses problems for the French.

Appearances, in France, are essential and the French staged an American- design present in honor of the Chinese leader.

The Élysée Palace was filled with star guests, to name a few: Oscar- successful directors Jean- Jacques Annaud and Luc Besson, world- prominent singer Mireille Mathieu and film star Sophie Marceau, the fantastic musician Jean- Michel Jarre and his wife, the Foreign actress, Lida Guan and Paris- based Chinese Lang Lang, possibly the world’s greatest living pianist. Salma Hayek, the actress, and her billionaire husband were also present. A nice message to America: we can do it too.

An atmosphere of rivalry with America predominated during Xi’s trip to Paris. Given that France continued to pursue a strong anti-American policy after World War II, particularly during the presidency of General Charles de Gaulle.

The legendary general’s attitude that Americans viewed him as an equal partner during the war had a negative impact on him.

De Gaulle even left the military branch of NATO in 1966. Under the leadership of Nicola Sarkozy, who is Hungarian, France only joined the Western military alliance in 2007.

Xi probably sensed real anti- Americanism in Belgrade. The date of the Chinese president’s visit, May 7, was not chosen by chance: it marked the 25- year anniversary of NATO’s bombing of the former Yugoslavia, in which the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was also hit, killing three journalists and injuring 20 Chinese citizens.

Beijing protested the incident, calling it an accident, but NATO later said it was an accident.

For the first time in 32 years, a Chinese president has traveled to Serbia, making his previous trip to Belgrade in 2016. Aleksandar Vucic, president of Serbia, met Xi in Beijing last October, at the One Belt, One Road forum.

Aleksandar Vucic, president of Serbia, and Xi Jinping, president of China, greets you at Belgrade Airport on May 7, 2024. Image: Handout / Serbia Presidential Press Service

Serbia has been a candidate for EU membership for more than ten years, so Vucic’s visit to Beijing was noteworthy. All EU country leaders stayed away from the meeting at the time, aside from Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban and other leaders took part as well.

During Xi’s May 7- 8 visit, China and Serbia initialed 18 agreements, including related to a soon- to- be- enacted free trade agreement. Beijing is already Belgrade’s largest foreign investor: This year Chinese financing reached US$ 20 billion.

Belgrade is under political siege, and the EU has been consistently criticizing the Serbian president as a result of the Chinese president’s visit.

The president’s party, the Serbian Progressive Party, won an absolute parliamentary majority at elections in January. The European Parliament, on the other hand, judged that the Serbian election was” not fair” because” Belgrade did not fulfill its obligations regarding free elections.

Such criticism must be directed at Hungary and all other nations that reject the EU’s liberal policy. With Xi’s visit, Belgrade sent its own message to Brussels: we are not alone.

Russia backs Serbia in a time when the EU has ignored Moscow in every way since the Ukraine war started. Brussels cannot do this with China, however.

Xi arrived in Budapest, Hungary, at the conclusion of his European tour. Overall, he spent three days in Budapest, two in Paris and one in Belgrade, giving comparative diplomatic importance to Hungry.

This rang alarms in EU media”. Xi Jinping’s three-day visit to Budapest aims to help China become more competitive in the EU. Chinese goods could flood the EU market, which could pose a serious threat to Brussels,” the Brussels- based Euronews reported.

The Budapest-Belgrade railway line, one of the symbols of China’s economic expansion in Hungary, is currently undergoing renovations; 85 % of the investment is financed by Chinese loans. According to the report, Chinese goods can reach Western Europe the quickest way from the Greek port of Piraeus thanks to the railroad’s modernization and the assistance of Hungary and Serbia, according to the report.

Additionally, the report stated that it is illogical to assume that China is” building a bridgehead” in Hungary.

On May 8, 2024, Chinese President Xi Jinping travels to Hungary on the invitation of Hungary’s president Tamas Sulyok and prime minister Viktor Orban. Orban and his wife welcomed Xi and his family at Budapest Airport upon their arrival. Photo: Xinhua / Xie Huanchi

Last December, China’s BYD, the world’s largest electric vehicle ( EV ) manufacturer, announced that it would build an assembly plant in Hungary, Europe’s first electric car manufacturing plant.

The location was not chosen by chance. The factory will be constructed directly along the Hungarian-Serbian border, with Serbia likely to supply the vehicles ‘ labor through Serbia and through Serbia, where the new cars will be exported. Apparently, the Chinese intend to rely on both countries in Southeastern Europe.

On the Hungarian side, the Chinese president’s visit was emphasized for its historical importance. That was achieved by Xi moving to Budapest 20 years later, as well as by the signing of economic agreements that could speed up the growth of the Hungarian economy.

As evidenced by some of the 18 Hungarian-Chinese agreements, good Serbian-Chinese relations will play a role in this. One of them envisions an oil pipeline connecting the two nations, while another envisions a border station with a high throughput on the Hungary-Serb border.

Importantly, China plans significant industrial investments in Hungary’s eastern, less- developed region. In addition to modernizing Hungary’s railway network, expanding EV charging stations, and improving the country’s infrastructure, Chinese investors are also investing.

The most intriguing and significant agreement is between Hungary and China regarding cooperation in the nuclear industry, enabling both nations to have access to the most affordable, safest, and most effective means of electricity production.

How much does China’s close relationship with Hungary affect its membership in NATO? Answer: not all all.

The Hungarian Atlantic Council, a non- partisan social organization that analyzes Hungary’s NATO membership, held its general meeting in Budapest around the time of Xi’s visit. The defense minister of Hungary, who made it clear that Hungary still has no choice but to join NATO, inaugurated the discussion.

The journalist Peter G Feher writes for Magyar Hrlap from Budapest. This report was originally published on Stephen Bryen’s Substack Weapons and Strategy, and it has since been republished with kind permission. Read the original here.