Xi concludes Europe trip with clear message on fortifying cooperation

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BUDAPEST, May 10 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday wrapped up his first trip to Europe in nearly five years by affirming to European leaders that China remains a committed partner and is ready to enhance mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides.

Over the course of six days, Xi's travels took him through France, Serbia, and Hungary, where he consistently underscored the significance of the China-Europe relationship for fostering global peace and prosperity.

The message, delivered amidst rising protectionism and mounting geopolitical tensions, symbolized China's latest endeavor to promote stability and cooperation on the global stage.

In a trilateral meeting on Monday in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Xi said that the China-European Union (EU) cooperation is in essence complementary and mutually beneficial and China always views its relations with the EU from a strategic and long-term perspective.

This relationship does not target any third party, nor should it be dependent on or dictated by any third party, Xi said.

Macron, a prominent proponent of Europe's strategic autonomy, stressed that France and the EU need to strengthen cooperation with China, as this bears on the future of Europe.

France hopes to enhance dialogue and cooperation with China, and strengthen mutual trust and friendship between France and China and also between the EU and China, he said.

France has for long advocated strategic autonomy for Europe, said Eric Alauzet, president of the France-China Friendship Group of the French National Assembly.

"That means not to fall back after the East-West confrontation ... so this multipolarity, this multipolar, multilateral world is what China and France want in common," said Alauzet.

Later in the day when holding talks with Macron, Xi urged both sides to uphold independence and jointly prevent a new Cold War or bloc confrontation.

On many occasions during his stay in France, Xi referred to the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and France 60 years ago, a milestone event in China-Western relations.

This significant historic event, dubbed a "diplomatic nuclear explosion" by Western media then, stirred public discourse in the West and had a tremendous impact on the international landscape. It happened eight years prior to former U.S. President Richard Nixon's groundbreaking 1972 trip to China.

At that time, then French leader General Charles de Gaulle reportedly noted that France needed to listen to the voice of China directly and vice versa, and that those governments still holding a wait-and-see attitude would sooner or later follow the step of France.

In a signed article published Sunday in French media Le Figaro, Xi said that "history is our best teacher" as the world now "is far from being tranquil and is once again facing a multitude of risks."

"China is ready to work with France in the spirit that guided the establishment of our diplomatic ties to forge a stronger comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries and make new contributions to stronger cooperation of the global community," Xi wrote.

"There are so many crises that great countries like China and France must work together, and the work must be done in a spirit of multilateralism," said former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius.

Given the gravity of major global challenges such as ending conflicts, enhancing economic development, addressing climate change and significant health crises, an effective resolution necessitates cooperation among all nations, he said.

In his visits to Serbia and Hungary, respectively, Xi and leaders of the two Central and Eastern European (CEE) nations announced decisions to elevate bilateral ties.

This enhancement coincided with China's robust, intensifying investment flows in the region. From January to March 2024 alone, China's investment in CEE surged by 36.35 percent compared to the previous year, reaching about 450 million U.S. dollars. As of March 2024, the cumulative total of Chinese investment in the CEE region soared to 5.2 billion dollars.

Take Hungary as an example. In 2023, Hungary was able to attract a total of 13 billion euros (about 13.86 billion dollars) in foreign direct investment, of which about 8 billion euros (about 8.53 billion dollars) were from China, said Hungarian Minister for National Economy Marton Nagy in an interview with Xinhua.

The Hungarian side is looking forward to further cooperating with China in the fields of foreign trade, capital investment, infrastructure, logistics, artificial intelligence, and new energy, among others, he said.

That is also the case for Serbia. "During the past two years, China has emerged as the largest foreign direct investor in Serbia, bringing numerous benefits to the country," said Jelena Grubor Stefanovic, director of representative office of Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China.

"Now Serbia has more opportunities to systematically focus its efforts on attracting investments from China in industry sectors with high added value like life sciences, digital economy, automotive industry, smart agriculture sector and green development," she said.

Chen Fengying, a researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that China's enhanced cooperation with Serbia and Hungary has spurred local economic growth and uplifted living standards.

This success is a compelling example of the tangible benefits obtained from forging partnerships with China and progressing collectively, said Chen.

Such an achievement has also exerted a noteworthy inspirational and motivational influence on other CEE countries, she added.

Xi's visit to Europe came as Washington is maneuvering to rally its allies in the West to "de-risk" and "decouple" from China, and slow down the country's high-tech progress, protectionist tactics rejected by European leaders.

Speaking during the China-France-EU trilateral meeting, Macron reaffirmed that the EU refuses the logic of decoupling.

The EU welcomes investment and cooperation by Chinese companies in Europe, said Macron during the China-France-EU trilateral meeting, noting that the EU hopes to step up cooperation with China and jointly safeguard the security and stability of value chains and supply chains in Europe.

"I believe that the economic cooperation between Europe and China is something very important. China is strong, and that is why Europe has to develop itself and be strong also," Marc-Antoine Jamet, secretary general of the LVMH group, told Xinhua on Monday before the closing ceremony of the Sixth Meeting of the China-France Business Council. Enditem

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