The French president hopes Beijing can be useful in pressing Russia to end the war in Ukraine. How exactly is not clear.
President Emmanuel Macron of France arrives in Beijing on Wednesday determined to carve out a distinct role for Europe that avoids America’s confrontation with an assertive China, and convinced that there is a place for China in ending the war in Ukraine.
Battered at home by protests over his decision to raise the French retirement age, rebuffed in his repeated attempts to sway President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia from pursuing a long war, Mr. Macron has turned to China as “the sole country in the world capable of changing Moscow’s calculus” on Ukraine, in the words of one diplomatic official.
“Only China can have a game-changer effect,” the official, who requested anonymity in line with French diplomatic practice, said. “We know there will be no Chinese condemnation of Russia, but the president has worked enormously to see how, with China, we can be useful to the benefit of Ukrainians.”
What exactly Mr. Macron has in mind is not clear. China has never condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It has avoided use of the word “war” to describe the Russian assault. It has embraced a “no-limits,” anti-Western partnership with Moscow, cemented last month by President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia and the joint declaration of a “new era” freed of what the two countries see as American dominance.
But the French leader likes to thread needles invisible to others. He appears to detect enough Chinese disquiet over Mr. Putin’s war for diplomatic ingenuity.
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