France Wants ‘Clear Message’ From China To Russia Over Ukraine War

Following meetings with his counterpart in Beijing, France’s top diplomat stated on Monday that the country wants China to convey “clear messages” to its strategic ally Russia regarding the conflict in Ukraine.

France and China have attempted to expand ties in recent years, and during meetings in Paris in February, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told President Emmanuel Macron that Beijing valued his country’s “independent” approach.

However, Paris has also pushed to press Beijing on its relations with Moscow, which have only gotten stronger since the invasion of Ukraine.

While China claims to be a neutral party in the Ukraine war, it has faced criticism for neglecting to denounce Moscow’s attack.

Paris, on the other hand, has emerged as one of Kyiv’s staunchest supporters, with Macron refusing to rule out deploying soldiers to the country in February.

Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said Monday that Beijing “plays a key role in… the respect of international law, including on Ukraine’s sovereignty, and therefore we are clearly expecting that China will send very clear messages to Russia”.

“We are convinced that there will be no lasting peace if it is not negotiated with the Ukrainians,” he told a press conference in Beijing, speaking alongside his Chinese counterpart Wang.

“There will be no security for Europeans if there is no peace in accordance with international law,” he continued.

“It is an essential issue for us, which is why France is determined to maintain a close dialogue with China,” he said.


Sejourne’s journey to China is the second by a French foreign minister in less than six months, following his predecessor Catherine Colonna’s visit in November.

On Monday afternoon, he met with Premier Li Qiang in Beijing’s lavish Great Hall of the People, telling China’s top two official that he wanted to discuss “global situations that are fracturing and dividing the world today”.

“I am thinking of the situation in the Middle East, but also in Ukraine,” he sai

Li said he was “very happy” to welcome the minister to Beijing.

“Our two countries have a long history and splendid civilisations,” Li said, hailing their shared “spirit of independence and autonomy”.

“This explains why China and France have a natural sense of closeness,” he said.

Macron also paid a visit to a university in southern China last April, where he was greeted like a rock hero by hundreds of screaming students and supporters.

However, he faced charges of cozying up to Beijing and stirred controversy by stating that Europe should not be a “follower” of the US in the case of a fight with China over Taiwan.

His foreign minister’s visit this week coincides with festivities commemorating the 60th anniversary of France-China diplomatic relations.

Later that day, Sejourne will attend the opening of the “Versailles and the Forbidden City” exhibition, which will feature approximately 60 works of art and treasures from the palace and will be open to the public until the end of June.

‘Derisking’ not ‘decoupling’

France’s efforts to enhance ties with Beijing come as the EU seeks to reduce its dependency on China.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “derisking” has evolved as a key component of the European Union’s economic policy toward China.

The concept contrasts with the more radical approach known as “decoupling” — espoused by certain US leaders who seek to isolate China or cut all business ties with the nation.

According to a report released last month by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, the EU is increasingly viewing China as a “partner,” as well as a “economic competitor and systemic rival.”

Sejourne told reporters in Beijing on Monday that decoupling was not an option.

However, he stated that a “economic rebalancing” was required to maintain “healthy and sustainable” commerce.

Foreign Minister Wang, for his part, said he “appreciates” Sejourne’s decision to oppose decoupling.

“It is not possible to decouple from China, and decoupling from China is the biggest risk,” Wang said.

“I believe that it has been proved, and will continue to prove, that China is an opportunity and not a risk for Europe. Both sides are partners and not rivals.”


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