Bring Putin to his senses, Emmanuel Macron tells Xi Jinping

Macron - LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images

Macron – LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images

Emmanuel Macron told Xi Jinping that he was counting on him to “bring Russia to its senses” over the war in Ukraine, during a day of high-stakes global diplomacy centred around China.

Mr Macron is in China with Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, in the latest European gambit to court Mr Xi and pressure him to use his influence over Vladimir Putin.

“I know I can count on you to bring Russia to its senses and everyone to the negotiating table,” the French president told Mr Xi during a meeting in Beijing.

Mr Macron on Wednesday urged against decoupling from China, saying that France would “commit proactively to continue to have a commercial relationship with China”. He also warned that the US and China are on a collision course.

It comes as China lashed out on Thursday at Taiwan and launched military drills after president Tsai Ing-wen met Kevin McCarthy, the US House Speaker, in California, the highest-level government reception a Taiwanese leader has had on US soil.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran also met in Beijing for talks after the two regional rivals re-established diplomatic ties, brokered by the Chinese government, after many years of hostilities.

Macron - Ng Han Guan/AP

Macron – Ng Han Guan/AP

Following Ms Tsai’s meeting at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the Chinese foreign ministry attacked the US, saying it had “connived at attempts by separatists seeking ‘Taiwan independence’ to carry out political activities on US soil”.

China’s ministry of defence also condemned Ms Tsai for “slinking to the United States under any name or for any excuse”, while reminding that its military “maintains high vigilance at all times”.

China has long laid claim to Taiwan, an island nation with its own democratically-elected government, military, currency and foreign affairs, that has become the latest flashpoint between Beijing and Washington.

“It is no secret that today the peace we have maintained and the democracy which we have worked so hard to build are facing unprecedented challenges,” Ms Tsai said in joint remarks with Mr McCarthy.

“We once again find ourselves in a world where democracy is under threat and the urgency of keeping the beacon of freedom shining cannot be understated.”

China - Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

China – Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Mr McCarthy reiterated support for Taiwan: “The friendship between the people of Taiwan and America is a matter of profound importance to the free world. It is critical to maintain economic freedom, peace and regional stability.”

China repeatedly protested against the meeting, warning that Beijing would always protect its sovereign interests and vowing to take “resolute” action.

China’s response has so far been muted, especially in comparison to the biggest-ever war games that China assembled last August when McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan and met with Ms Tsai.

Beijing’s tempered response is likely aimed at ensuring the flurry of diplomatic activity surrounding Mr Macron’s and Ms Von der Leyen’s visits stays on track this week.

China has been keen to court the EU away from the US, even as Beijing has refused to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

China - GONZALO FUENTES/AFP/Getty Images

China – GONZALO FUENTES/AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran are also due to meet in Beijing for talks regarding next steps after the two nations re-established diplomatic ties after many years of hostilities.

The breakthrough was a major victory for the Chinese at a time when some countries in the Middle East perceive the US as slowly withdrawing from the region.

And Ma Ying-jeou, the former Taiwanese president, is concluding a historic trip to China – the first by a former or sitting president of the island nation given longtime tensions between Taipei and Beijing.

Still, Beijing has issued increasingly bellicose rhetoric over Taiwan, including in the lead-up to Ms Tsai’s meeting with Mr McCarthy.

The meeting, described by Taiwan and the US as a “stopover” for Ms Tsai en route to an official visit to Central America, was part of a carefully choreographed trip – trying to stand up to Beijing without worsening tensions.

Ms Tsai has long made clear that Taiwan won’t act hastily, but that it also won’t back down from Beijing’s bullying, a message she repeated in the US.

“I reiterated Taiwan’s commitment to defending the peaceful status quo, where the people of Taiwan may continue to thrive in a free and open society,” she said. “I would like to add that we are stronger when we are together.”

Taiwan - FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Taiwan – FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Ms Tsai also met with US senators in New York on an earlier “transit” stop, choosing a hotel owned by a South Korean conglomerate, Lotte, that had been pushed out of China – a deliberate decision to hold talks in a location that China could not retaliate against.

Just before Ms Tsai met with Mr McCarthy, the Taiwanese military said it had detected 20 Chinese military aircraft and three ships in its surrounding area. Such incursions by the Chinese military are now occuring near-daily in a show of force against Taiwan.

Chiu Kuo-cheng, the Taiwanese defence minister, said an aircraft carrier was 200 nautical miles off Taiwan’s east coast.

“It is training but the timing is quite sensitive, and what it is up to we are still studying,” Mr Chiu said, adding aircraft had yet to be seen taking off from its deck.

China’s maritime safety administration in coastal Fujian province, the one closest to Taiwan, announced online that it had launched a three-day special joint patrol and inspection operation in the Taiwan Strait that could see its officers board ships.

The Chinese navy has also been running landing drills both day and night, according to state media.

China reportedly paid people as much as $400 to attend rallies to protest against Ms Tsai during her stops in the US.

Despite increasing cooperation with Taiwan, the US does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taipei, having instead chosen to establish relations with Beijing in 1979. Taiwan has only 13 diplomatic allies, after many nations cut ties under pressure from China.

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