China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, met with French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday at the start of his trip to Europe, amid renewed tensions between China and the United States.
Macron met with Wang, the director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, behind closed doors at the Elysée Palace on Wednesday. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna is expected to meet Wang in Paris later in the day.
The French capital is the first stop on Wang’s tour of Europe. In the coming days, he will also travel to Italy, Hungary, Russia and Germany. He is expected to deliver a speech at the Munich Security Conference that starts on Friday.
Wang’s weeklong tour of Europe is seen as part of China’s efforts to restore ties with European nations at a time of rising tensions between the world’s two largest economies – China and the United States – following the US shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon earlier this month.
The trip comes amid China’s persistent efforts to push back against Western pressure on trade, technology, human rights and its claims to a broad swath of the western Pacific. China’s refusal to condemn the invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago, and join others in imposing sanctions on Russia as the war heads into a second year has further frayed ties with the West and fueled an emerging divide with much of Europe.
In December, Wang defended what he said was his country’s position of impartiality on the war in Ukraine and signaled that China would deepen ties with Russia in 2023.
Speaking ahead of the trip, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said on Monday that Wang will have “in-depth strategic communication” aiming to “promote new developments in bilateral relations, enhance strategic mutual trust between China and Europe, and exchange views on major international issues.”