Visits expected to boost China, Europe ties

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Visits: EU, China can face world's challenges together

French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's visits to China are expected to usher in the resumption and blossoming of pragmatic collaboration on more frontiers and send a clear signal on bolstering unity in the face of global challenges, officials and experts said.

Both are scheduled to make three-day visits through Friday. It is Macron's first state visit to the second-largest economy in the world since the outbreak of COVID-19, and his third state visit to China as French president following trips in 2018 and 2019.

Macron is reportedly being accompanied by a large delegation of prominent figures from France's political, business and cultural circles.

The annual bilateral trade volume in commodities between France and China totaled 101.8 billion euros ($111.4 billion) last year, a year-on-year increase of 14.6 percent, according to statistics from French authorities.

Policy researchers also underlined that both countries are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, as well as major players in the world's multipolar landscape.

"The global situation has witnessed profound changes in the past three years. Paris realized that tackling regional crises and global challenges won't be a success without engaging and working with China," said Cui Hongjian, director of the China Institute of International Studies' European Studies Department.

"The ongoing visit will reaffirm the importance and implications of China-France ties to the world's stability and development," Cui added.

The French president will also pay a visit to Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, in South China, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning confirmed on Monday.

Cui said that Macron's scheduled visit to Guangdong "points to the unique identity of the province in China's reform and opening-up process, and the southern coastal province is also home to many European enterprises and investment projects".

There has been a rush of European leaders visiting China since the end of last year, including from Germany and Spain, and China and the EU are each other's second-largest trading partners.

China-EU trade in commodities reached $847.3 billion last year, an increase of 2.4 percent year-on-year, according to a report issued by the Academy of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade in Beijing last month.

China has taken a consistent positive and constructive approach toward its relationship with the EU, and the EU leader's China trip marks a great chance to foster mutual understanding and narrow their differences, diplomats and experts said.

"Securing the close economic links between China and the EU is in the interests of enterprises and people on both sides at a time that Europe's energy crisis has led to serious inflation and impacted its manufacturing and service sectors," said Yang Chengyu, an associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies. "There is still great room for China-EU cooperation in the field of renewable energy and high-tech industries," he added.

There has been no change in Beijing's sincerity in advancing the EU's suspended ratification of the China-EU bilateral investment treaty, and China is ready to discuss with the EU a solution based on reciprocity and mutual benefits, Ambassador Fu Cong, head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, said in a recent interview with The New York Times.

"There is no conflict of fundamental interests between China and the EU, their common ground is way much larger than their divergence, and they surely should join hands and work together to deal with global challenges," Fu was quoted as saying on Wednesday by his mission's website.

According to the Elysee Palace, Macron and US President Joe Biden agreed in a phone call ahead of the French president's visit to engage China to hasten the end of the crisis in Ukraine. Both leaders also hoped that China can contribute to solidarity efforts between the global north and global south and build a joint agenda for climate issues and biodiversity.

The Foreign Ministry has said on many occasions that China is not a contracting party to the Ukraine crisis, but a firm supporter and active promoter of the peaceful resolution of the crisis.

Ministry spokeswoman Mao told a regular briefing on Tuesday that China is willing to communicate with the EU on the crisis' political settlement, and also expects the EU to display strategic autonomy and political wisdom.

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