French President Emmanuel Macron told his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Thursday that he is counting on him to “bring Russia to its senses” when it comes to the war in Ukraine.
“I know I can count on you to bring Russia to its senses and everyone to the negotiating table,” Macron told Xi during an official bilateral meeting in Beijing.
Macron is in China for a three-day trip with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a show of European unity in dealings with Beijing.
For his part, the Chinese president praised his country’s ties with France in a world undergoing “profound historical change.”
On Wednesday, the first day of the visit, Macron said Beijing could play a “major role” in “finding a path to peace” in Ukraine, citing China’s 12-point proposal to end the fighting.
Ursula von der Leyen, for her part, issued a much harsher warning last week in Brussels: “The way China will continue to react to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war will be a determining factor in the future of EU-China relations”.
China’s relationship with Russia
In recent weeks, international pressure has increased on China to get involved in the peace process in Ukraine.
Although Beijing officially claims to be neutral, Xi has never condemned Russia’s full-scale invasion or spoken with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the phone.
Xi and Putin declared their governments had a “no limits friendship” before Moscow’s February 2022 attack on Ukraine. Beijing has refused to criticise the Kremlin but has tried to appear neutral and has called for a ceasefire and peace talks.
China is the biggest buyer of Russian oil and gas, and Xi’s government sees Moscow as both a source of energy and as a partner in opposing what both say is US domination of global affairs.
Meanwhile, NATO warned Wednesday of “severe consequences” if China starts sending weapons and ammunition to Russia.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said giving “lethal aid” would be a “historic mistake.” He warned there would be “severe consequences” but declined to give details.
Macron also said on Wednesday that he will push for “working in partnership” with China on climate. He said France will organise a global conference on the protection of oceans in 2025 and said China should be part of these efforts.