Macron embraces mighty China
Seeking orders for Airbus, Macron, 40, is due to visit the northern Chinese city’s terracotta warriors (pictured) and deliver a speech on bilateral relations.
The 8,000-man clay army, constructed in around 250BC for the tomb of Chinese emperor Qin Shihuang, is a symbol of Chinese artistic and cultural prowess.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s colossal New Silk Road project, also called the Belt and Road Initiative, is an ambitious plan to connect Asia, Africa and Europe by road, rail and sea.
The visit presents Macron with numerous challenges.
To Europe, Xi’s public defence of globalisation has yet to translate into serious attempts to open up China to foreign companies. Macron is expected to refer to this contradiction in his speech.
The US$1-trillion infrastructure programme is billed as a modern revival of the historic Silk Road that carried fabrics, spice and other goods overland in both directions.
Macron’s first official Asian trip marks a new stage in his diplomacy, which has so far been focussed on Europe and Africa.
He is expected to outline his views on the scheme, in his emerging role as a European spokesperson, especially while Germany’s Angela Merkel is bogged down in coalition talks.
“The best Macron can do to help the European and French economies is to take Xi at his word on free trade and globalisation and push relentlessly for more reciprocity,” said Francoise Nicolas of the Institute for Foreign Relations in Paris.
Macron says he wants a “strategic partnership” with China on terrorism and climate change, and to secure Xi’s support for the Paris accord to fight climate change after the US pulled out.
Airbus is discussing a large aircraft order during Macron’s visit, according to diplomatic sources. Talks are reportedly focused on Airbus’s A320 single-aisle and A330 and A350 wider aircraft. Reuters reported that the Toulouse-based firm was in talks on the sale of at least 100 aeroplanes.
Xian’s subterranean army. Picture credit: MaxPixel