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BALI, Indonesia — Every European leader at the G20 Summit in Bali this week wanted to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping alone.

Not everyone got.

The desire of Europeans to meet Xi stemmed from the fact that this week was the first opportunity for a Chinese leader to meet at a major diplomatic gathering since the lockdowns of early 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began in China and spread around the world.

Europeans have always had to accept that they will fight for crumbs in the schedule. US President Joe Biden spent three and a half hours with Xi, while French President Emmanuel Macron had to settle for (still a decent) 43 minutes.

China has clearly reinvigorated its long-standing tactic of courting specific EU countries and their national interests, which it has often used to destabilize Brussels. (When Brussels threatened an all-out trade war in 2013 because of China’s undercutting of the EU’s solar panel and telecommunications markets, China skillfully shattered EU unity by threatening retaliation against French and Spanish wine, playing Paris and Madrid against EU trade officials ).

Once again in Bali, China took a clever approach between the nations, meeting with Macron, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Italian Giorgia Meloni and Dutchman Mark Rutte, while avoiding European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel. At least the meeting with Michel was widely expected in diplomatic circles.

China bristled at the EU’s description of itself as a “systemic rival” to Brussels and instead decided to use its influence in individual European countries.

Attend a meeting with Rutte. The main interest of the Chinese leader was that the Netherlands, the home of the ASML chip maker, a company that produces key equipment for the production of microchips, did not join any EU-US trade coalition that aims to cut off China from new technologies.

“We hope the Netherlands will increase Europe’s commitment to openness and cooperation,” Xi noted in a reading from the meeting in the Netherlands. Translation: Don’t get into trading trouble because of microchips.

Together with Sánchez, Xi underlined the importance of China as the engine of tourism in Spain, a sector in which Madrid has a particular interest high-ranking visitors from Asia. “Both sides need to prepare well for the Sino-Spanish Year of Culture and Tourism to build greater public support for Sino-Spanish friendship,” Xi said.

Similarly, the state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Macron as saying he wanted closer business cooperation, particularly in the aerospace and civilian nuclear sectors. China’s account of the Xi-Meloni meeting was that Beijing would import more “high-end” goods – possibly luxury and gourmet – and would cooperate in manufacturing, energy and aviation.

Macron hugs Xi

As a sign that Xi’s diplomatic strategy is paying off, Macron has taken a non-confrontational approach to Xi, even massaging the Chinese leader’s ego.

The Chinese embassy in Paris promoted i.a video by TikTok’s domestic Chinese counterpart, Douyin, in which Macron conveyed his best wishes to China after Xi secured a norm-breaking new mandate. (Xi was appointed general secretary of the Communist Party for a third term at a highly choreographed party congress.)

Macron also hailed Xi Jinping as a “sincere” figure who should “act as a mediator over the next few months” in deterring further Russian aggression in Ukraine – even though he has not been seen well suited to such a role since Beijing. war broke out in February.

Ignoring China’s deadly tensions in the Himalayas with India, escalating tensions with Taiwan, or military adventurism in the South China Sea, Macron declared: “China calls for peace… [There is] deep and I know sincere attachment to… the UN Charter.”

Macron also told reporters that he plans to visit China early next year. This appears to be a retort to the visit of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who visited China earlier this month. Scholz reportedly rejected Paris’ proposal for a joint Macron-Scholz visit and opted to go alone with a delegation of large companies.

“Macron badly needed this airtime with Xi because it was unmissable in China when Americans and Germans dominated the headlines,” said a Western diplomat.

While Macron claimed Xi agreed with him in “the call to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” the Chinese reading made no such mention, saying only “China stands for a ceasefire, an end to the conflict, and peace talks.”

Brussels drawn

In stark contrast to French, Spanish, Dutch and Italian leaders, EU leaders from Brussels have not been peeked in.

Showing Beijing’s consistently negative view of the European Union, Xi chose not to pursue what POLITICO considered a near-certain agenda for Michel, representing all 27 countries, to meet with Xi.

The event, if allowed to take place, would be significant in demonstrating the ability of the bloc’s smaller economies to have a say, as otherwise Xi would be busy dealing with larger players.

Xi’s change of heart after meeting with Michel came shortly after a pre-recorded speech by the EU Council president at a trade fair in Shanghai was deleted. According to Reuters, in a speech he tried to spark Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine, which was deemed too delicate for Chinese ears.

Meanwhile, Commission Chair von der Leyen was not on plans to meet Xi, but a joint show with Biden to focus on funding infrastructure for developing countries to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

In a thinly veiled criticism of China’s approach to the new Silk Road, von der Leyen said: [West’s] Partnership Global for Infrastructure and Investment is an important geostrategic initiative in the era of strategic competition.

“Together with leading democracies, we offer value-based, high-standard and transparent infrastructure partnerships for low- and middle-income countries,” she said.

However, her tone proved to be a minority among European leaders during the G20 clash with China.

“There is no common message from the EU on China,” says another EU diplomat in Bali. “But then he was never there.”

To the relief of European diplomats, Xi at least did not treat his bosses the same way he treated Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Everything we talk about has been leaked to the newspaper; this is not right,” Xi Trudeau said through an interpreter in a clip recorded by Canadian media.

“It’s not… the way the conversation was conducted. If there’s sincerity on your part…” Xi said before Trudeau interrupted him, defending his country’s interest in “constructive” cooperation with Beijing.

Xi used his turn to interrupt. “Let’s create the conditions first,” Xi said.

Go and stand in the corner, Justin.

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#returns #Europe #falls #prey #Chinas #divideandconquer #tactics #POLITICO

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