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Macron in guarded blessing for Belt

China | Jan 10, 2018
French President Emmanuel Macron toured Beijing's sprawling Forbidden City yesterday before a day of business deals and talks with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, as the two rising global leaders seek closer ties.

Macron, who has positioned himself as the European Union's leading voice, came to Beijing to discuss an ambitious agenda with Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader in decades.

The two presidents are expected to oversee the signing of some 50 agreements, including in the strategically key sectors of nuclear energy and aerospace.

Ahead of the ceremony, Chinese online retailer JD.com announced plans to sell French goods worth two billion euros (HK$18.66 billion) to Chinese consumers over the next two years - including high-end wine and cognac - and spend 100 million euros on French industrial products. In an earlier keynote speech, Macron urged the EU to participate in Xi's cherished US$1 trillion (HK$7.8 trillion) Silk Road trade infrastructure project despite misgivings, though he warned the initiative should not create a "new hegemony."

Macron and Xi held a private meeting on Monday night, and were due to hold more talks yesterday. The French leader said he discussed the Silk Road initiative with Xi at length.

"We will see how things are done," Macron said at a forum yesterday.

Macron and his wife Brigitte were accompanied by students from the French international school and a French historian, as they walked along the red-walled palaces of former Chinese emperors at the Forbidden City.

On a sunny but bitterly cold day, Macron asked historian Patrice Fava to translate a banner which read "With fairness, govern from the center."

"It's important. It's symbolic," said Brigitte Macron, whose husband campaigned as a centrist candidate in the French presidential election.

It is the first state visit by a European leader since China's Communist Party congress in October, which reinforced Xi's grip on power as he was formally handed a second term, and his named was enshrined in the party's constitution.

Beijing has praised Macron's decision to make China his first state visit to an Asian nation.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE



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