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Roving Periscope: Amid Tibetan protests, and Gaza fires, China’s Xi begins France visit

Roving Periscope: Amid Tibetan protests, and Gaza fires, China’s Xi begins France visit

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: Welcomed with the call for ‘Free Tibet,’ China’s President Xi Jinping started his two-day state visit to France on Monday, as his ‘friend’ Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin ordered nuclear drills against the West amid the Ukraine war, and Israel began preparing to invade Rafah in Gaza Strip for a final assault on Hamas terrorists hiding amongst displaced civilians.

For decades, exiled from their homeland, nearly 2,000 Tibetans converged upon Paris, a city of liberty and activism, to voice their dissent against the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to France. Against the backdrop of Place de la République, a symbol of democracy and protest, they stood united, their voices echoing through the streets, demanding recognition for their long-standing plight, the media reported.

This is President Xi’s third visit to France since he came to power in 2013 and his second under President Macron.

On Sunday, people protested by holding placards that read — “Dictator Xi Jinping, your time is up,” and “No to Chinese totalitarianism” — among others. They also protested against China’s support of Russia against Ukraine and even asked Beijing to stay out of France.

Amid the call for ‘Free Tibet’ at the heart of the protests, participants also lauded France for its exemplary human rights record.

During his first visit to France in five years, Xi will meet President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen for talks on trade and Ukraine. France hopes to open the Chinese market for its agricultural exports and resolve issues facing the French cosmetic industry in that country, the media reported.

In a statement released on his arrival in Paris, which is the venue for the 2024 Olympic Games in July-August, Xi praised ties between the two nations, despite trade tensions over a European Union probe into Chinese electric vehicle exports, and Beijing’s investigation into mostly French-made imports of brandy.

The Chinese President said ties between China and France were “a model for the international community of peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation between countries with different social systems.”

Chinese state media sought to strike a conciliatory tone in various editorials on Monday.

“China-EU economic and trade cooperation is huge, and bumps and bruises are inevitable,” the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship paper, wrote. “China is willing to strengthen communication and coordination with the EU, promote cooperation, and resolve differences through dialogue.”

The Global Times wrote that “China’s desire to expand cooperation with Europe and support Europe’s strategic autonomy remains unwavering.”
The EU’s 27 members – in particular, France and Germany – are not on the same page vis-à-vis China. While Paris advocates a tougher line on the EV probe, Berlin wants to proceed with more caution, the reports said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will not join Presidents Macron and Xi in Paris due to prior commitments.

“In Europe, we are not unanimous on the subject because certain players still see China as essentially a market of opportunities,” Macron said in an interview with French newspaper La Tribune ahead of Xi’s visit.

France hopes to nudge China into pressuring Moscow to halt operations in Ukraine, with little progress apart from Xi’s decision to call President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the first time shortly after Macron visited Beijing last year.

The China Daily said in an editorial that Ukraine was a top agenda item for European leaders visiting China, which has close ties with Russia.

“China and Europe can work together to push for a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine,” it said, adding that China could maintain normal economic and trade exchanges with both Ukraine and Russia.

Meanwhile, China may announce the purchase of around 50 Airbus aircraft during Xi’s visit.

After Paris, Macron will take Xi to the Pyrenees, a mountainous region dear to the French president as the birthplace of his maternal grandmother, before Xi heads to Russia-friendly Serbia and Hungary.


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