With his brown hair and youthful step, he came to China Monday on a special plane, ready to win over President Xi Jinping and cement a new era of France-China relations.
We are, of course, talking not about France’s President Emmanuel Macron, but Vesuvius de Brekka, the 8-year-old gelding plucked from the French presidential cavalry and presented to Xi as a gift during Macron’s three-day swing through China.
Paris called the horse an “unprecedented diplomatic gesture,” and its intent was very clear: Macron’s visit was to be a charm offensive for the French President and the horse was just the beginning.
Macron’s first stop on his tour was the ancient city of Xi’an, the start of President Xi’s sprawling, ambitious (and frequently criticized) Belt and Road trade initiative.
The French President said Europe should play a key role in the trillion dollar trade and infrastructure plan, and by doing so in Xi’an, he sent a symbol of France’s strong support for the project.
Climate and trade
In Beijing, following a trip to the Forbidden City, Macron poured praise on Xi for China’s commitment to open, multilateral trade and for sticking to Beijing’s commitments under the Paris Climate Accords.
He even offered a twist on his “Make our planet great again” slogan, by delivering the line in Mandarin.
Such praise will delight Xi, who has tried to position himself as a leader on both trade and climate in contrast to the US under President Donald Trump.
Critics however point to China’s less-than-free economic climate, and its ongoing offshoring of coal production and other polluting industries, even as it pursues investment in renewables at home.
Macron’s compliments are a symbolic attempt to get at what he’s really after: a more solidified, profitable, and balanced economic relationship with China, while cementing France’s role as the de facto European Union representative abroad.
France’s trade deficit with China is around $30 billion, its largest with any country.
Macron wants to solve that, and has urged China to give French companies greater access to Chinese consumers (how this gels with Xi’s supposed commitment to open, multilateral trade is less clear).
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