President Emmanuel Macron of France spoke of the need for a “shared responsibility for peace and international stability.”
President Emmanuel Macron of France, speaking at the start of a three-day visit to China, said Wednesday that Beijing could play a “major role” in bringing peace to Ukraine, and made clear that he would urge the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, to get deeply involved in this effort.
His aim over meetings Thursday and Friday with Mr. Xi was to “relaunch a strategic and global partnership with China” and so engage the country in a “shared responsibility for peace and international stability,” Mr. Macron said.
Addressing a gathering of the French community in Beijing, Mr. Macron insisted that the differences over political systems that make Europe and China “rivals” should not lead to the “decoupling” and “escalating tensions” that some regard as inevitable.
“I do not believe, and do not want to believe, in this scenario,” he said.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said last month that China could “become a partner” in the quest for a settlement, but Mr. Xi has not responded to his readiness to speak.
“It would be a good thing to speak to Mr. Zelensky,” Mr. Macron, who will meet Mr. Xi for a total of more than six hours starting on Thursday, said in remarks to the journalists accompanying him. Such a conversation, he said, would give the Chinese authorities a means to “form a complete opinion” of the conflict, and he urged “a deepening dialogue with Mr. Zelensky.”
The State of the War
- Finland’s Entry to NATO: The Nordic country officially became the military alliance’s 31st member, in what amounts to a strategic defeat for President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
- Drone Warfare: Using aerial drones to spot the enemy and direct artillery fire has become a staple of war for Ukraine and Russia, especially in the fiercely contested city of Bakhmut.
- Killing of Pro-War Blogger: Russian authorities detained a suspect in the bombing that killed a popular military blogger in St. Petersburg and blamed Ukraine and Russian opposition activists for the attack.
- Counteroffensive Challenges: With powerful Western weapons and newly formed assault units, Ukraine is poised for a critical spring campaign. But overcoming casualties and keeping troops motivated will be difficult tests.
Mr. Macron is clearly determined to carve out an independent position, one more conciliatory toward China than the American one, at a moment when relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades. Europe’s hard-hit economy needs the Chinese market; and European “strategic autonomy” is a long-sought goal for Mr. Macron.
This ambition has sometimes antagonized the United States. But if the French leader can exploit daylight between China and Russia over the Ukraine war, which appears unlikely given the two countries’ declaration of a “no-limits” friendship, he will have achieved something that is broadly in the American strategic interest: a faster end to the war and a weakening of the Chinese-Russian bond.
Mr. Macron told journalists that a conversation with President Biden shortly before his departure had reviewed “the elements through which it seemed useful to re-engage China” on the Ukraine conflict.
He did not elaborate, but it appeared he had won at least grudging American acceptance for his peace-through-China push.
In the run-up to the Ukraine war, and its early weeks, Mr. Macron clearly believed he had some leverage over President Vladimir V. Putin that might avert or curtail the conflict. That conviction, formed over several conversations between the two men, proved to be unfounded.
Just over a year later, he has turned his focus to China, which has never condemned the Russian invasion or used the word “war” to describe it, and has under Mr. Xi pursued an ever more aggressive anti-Western policy.
Asked about the potential Chinese provision of arms to Russia, a development the United States has worked hard to prevent, Mr. Macron said, “We decided since the start of the conflict to help the attacked country, and clearly indicated that anyone helping the aggressor would become an accomplice to the violation of international law.”
Still, he said, he had no intention of talking to Mr. Xi about potential sanctions against China because “threatening is never a good way to engage.”
China’s 12-point plan to resolve the Ukraine conflict, presented in February, had some problematic elements, but indicated Mr. Xi’s readiness to be involved in peace efforts, Mr. Macron suggested.
As two of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, France and China were bound to defend the U.N. Charter against the “imperialist” and “colonial” war waged by Russia in Ukraine, Mr. Macron argued.
Article 2 of the charter says that countries must refrain from the “use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” However, Russia, another permanent member, currently holds the presidency of the Security Council, adding to the intractability of the war.
Mr. Macron spoke on the same day as a meeting in California between Tsai Ing-wen, the president of the island democracy of Taiwan that China claims as its territory, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The French president declined to comment on the meeting, which will certainly provoke an angry Chinese reaction.
Asked if he thought China had become a more menacing power, Mr. Macron said: “I see an international order that is more unstable. And so, in this context, it is clear that any polarization, any acceleration of things, is threatening. That is another reason why it is necessary to continue to speak to everyone.”