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Macron in Guangzhou on final day of China trip

#Macron #Guangzhou #final #day #China #trip

French President Emmanuel Macron meets students and dines with Xi Jinping in the southern city of Guangzhou Friday, wrapping up a three-day state visit to China that has been dominated by discussions of how Beijing could mediate the Ukraine conflict.

The French president, who arrived in the capital on Wednesday, has said he is seeking to dissuade China from supporting Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.

In talks with the Chinese leader on Thursday, he told Xi that “I can count on you to bring Russia to its senses and everyone to the negotiating table”.

In remarks to the press following their meeting, Xi said he “stood ready to issue a joint call with France” for the resumption of “peace talks as soon as possible”, according to Chinese state media Xinhua.

And, according to a French diplomat, Xi expressed a willingness to speak with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, but only when the time is right.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who is accompanying Macron on his visit, welcomed Xi’s openness to speaking with Zelensky.

In contrast with the amicable Macron, von der Leyen has struck a more firm tone in her talks with Chinese officials this week.

On Thursday, she said she had her “deep concerns about the deterioration of the human rights situation in China” with officials, as well as warned Beijing that arms shipments to Russia would “significantly harm” relations.

Moscow however, has poured cold water on prospects of Beijing’s mediation of the war in Ukraine, insisting on Thursday it had “no choice” but to press on with its offensive.

“Undoubtedly, China has a very effective and commanding potential for mediation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. 

“But the situation with Ukraine is complex, so far there are no prospects for a political settlement.”

Beyond the war in Ukraine, Macron’s visit has also been focused on firming up a crucial trade partnership.

The French leader is accompanied by more than 50 French business leaders, including top bosses of Airbus, EDF and Veolia.

Airbus announced Thursday it would open a second final assembly line in China that will double its production capacity in the country, with the framework for the deal signed by CEO Guillaume Faury in Beijing.

Asia has become a key market for both Airbus and its US rival Boeing, as demand for air travel climbs with an expanding middle class.

The French leader’s trip to China also comes as he faces challenges at home, with mounting anger over controversial pension reforms seeing fresh clashes between radical protesters and police erupt in Paris on Thursday.

Macron Friday heads to the southern city of Guangzhou, where he will meet with local students at the city’s Sun Yat-sen University.

He will then have an early dinner with Xi, before meetings with Chinese investors and a flight home.

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