The leaders of France, Germany and the European Union’s executive sought to present Chinese President Xi Jinping with a united front at talks in Paris on Tuesday, pressing him for more reciprocity on trade amid wariness about China’s rising power. But with Europe eager for Chinese business, Mr. Xi’s visit was seen in Beijing as a success.
The Chinese leader’s six-day trip to Europe, which ended Tuesday, has exposed differences within and between EU countries about how much to open up to China’s ambitious global investment plans, and how to limit its growing influence in the region.
But Mr. Xi’s tour to Rome, Sicily, Paris and the Riviera has also highlighted Europe’s eagerness to secure lucrative deals. European leaders and dignitaries have received and courted the Chinese president with a fanfare offered to few other foreign guests.
That has allowed China to portray the European visit as a triumph, glossing over the EU’s criticisms and internal debates. Last weekend, Mr. Xi won Italy’s signature in support of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, delivering a symbolic boost for the ambitious global infrastructure plan when it is facing criticism in the U.S., Europe and parts of Asia, including for luring participating countries into debt.
Chinese state media gushed over the diplomatic stagecraft accorded to Mr. Xi, including the Italian and French jet fighters that escorted the Chinese presidential plane as it approached Rome and Paris, respectively. On social media, state broadcaster China Central Television described Mr. Xi’s reception at the Arc de Triomphe as France’s most pomp-filled welcome since the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 2014.
The diplomatic ceremony suggests that China’s efforts to secure goodwill from key European powers has paid off, said Wang Yiwei, a professor of international studies at Beijing’s Renmin University. “They understand that China values being ‘given face’ and so put on a good show for the Chinese,” he said.
Mr. Xi’s courting of Europe also “counteracts U.S. efforts to rally allies against China,” said Mr. Wang. “European countries are a priority for China to win over” to head off Washington-led pressure against Beijing, he said.
Also on Tuesday, however, the European Commission produced new plans to shore up the security of Europe’s next-generation 5G telecom networks. The proposals come amid U.S. pressure to restrict China’s Huawei Technologies Co. from supplying EU countries with 5G equipment because of concerns about cyberattacks and the provision of data to Chinese authorities.