China-France equation laden with hopes - GulfToday

China-France equation laden with hopes


France President Emmanuel Macron stands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during an event. File photo

France President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen travelled to China in a desperate bid to persuade Chinese President Xi Jinping to play the mediator in the Russia-Ukraine war. It was an unrealistic expectation. China had said that it respected the United Nations Charter respecting the sovereignty of states, and that of course included Ukraine, but it refused to condemn Russian invasion of Ukraine.

And ever since the beginning of the war last February, China had moved closer to Russia diplomatically and strategically. This is no secret alliance between the two states. There has been an open declaration of the closeness of ties when Xi visited Moscow and met Russian President Vladimir Putin recently. China had also benefited from the sanctions that the United States and European Union (EU) countries imposed on Russia , and China began to purchase oil and gas from Russia along with India, and two Asian countries were buying Russian oil and gas at discounted prices. So, China has no reason to play the peace-maker between Russia and Ukraine. But European countries, realising that they would not want the war with Ukraine to spread to the rest of Europe now want a face-saving peace, and they want President Xi to make peace between the warring states. China, it is learnt, had made no promise or offer to be the mediator in what is essentially a European war. But the Europeans are so desperate that they hope China will heed the pleas of Macron and der Leyen.

China or anyone else can hope to persuade Russia to back off on the issue of Ukraine because Ukraine is as sensitive an issue for Russia that Taiwan is, in a sense, to China. For Russia, Ukraine is a key issue of security for Moscow as Taipei is to Beijing. So, any solution that China may offer by way of a peaceful solution will not be at the cost of Russian interests in Ukraine. If Russian security interests are to be taken into consideration, then Ukraine will be left completely unhappy because the differences between Russia and Ukraine are in many senses irreconcilable. Europeans and Americans are fully committed to the security of Ukraine at the cost of Russia. China would, at the most, maintain neutrality towards the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and if EU countries are able to gain military advantage against Russia in Ukraine, then China is most unlikely to rush in to help Russia on the battlefront.

China on the other hand is using the visit of Macron to strengthen its relations with France, a key European power, to counter the United States’ anti-China thrust. China would like to exploit the differences that exist between Europe and America, and maintain friendly and strong ties with the Western world this side of the Atlantic, excluding both the United States and the United Kingdom.

The Chinese strategy in Europe would be to gain advantage in Europe as against Europe, but it would try avoid getting closer to Europe at the expense of Russia. In many ways, France would want to be seen as a friend of China and Russia, and it is part of traditional French diplomacy because the French do not want to be seen playing second fiddle to the United States, something that Britain is willing to do. And this approach of France goes back to the days of post-Second World War French leader Charles de Gaulle. China can hope to neutralise France and other European countries even as it battles the Unites States in the global arena for economic and diplomatic influence.



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