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Macron in China: 'The new Silk Road cannot be one-way'

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Macron in China: 'The new Silk Road cannot be one-way'

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French President Emmanuel Macron says China and Europe should work together on Beijing's "Belt and Road" initiative.

Macron began his first state visit to China with a stop in Xian, an eastern departure point of the ancient Silk Road.

What did he say?

"After all, the ancient Silk Roads were never only Chinese," Macron told an audience of academics, students and business people at the Daming Palace, the royal residence for the Tang dynasty for more than 220 years.

"By definition, these roads can only be shared. If they are roads, they cannot be one-way."

Macron, who pledged to visit China at least once every year during his mandate, said the new infrastructure and cultural projects promoted by China could also be in France and Europe's interest if done in a spirit of cooperation.

"These roads cannot be those of a new hegemony, which would transform those that they cross into vassals," Macron continued.

Why has Macron said this?

Diplomatic and economic reasons.

He is hoping to help relaunch EU-China relations. Ties are often strained by Beijing's restrictions on foreign investment and trade.

The French president, who is travelling with a delegation of 50 businessmen, is hoping to gain more access for French companies to Chinese markets.

What is the "Belt and Road" initiative?

The project aims to build a modern-day "Silk Road".

Unveiled in 2018, it is aimed at connecting China by land and sea to:

  • Southeast Asia
  • Pakistan
  • Central Asia
  • the Middle East, Europe and Africa

China pledged 124 billion US dollars for the plan at a summit in May. However, it has faced suspiciion in Western capitals that it is intended more to assert Chinese influence than Beijing's professed desire to spread prosperity.

Europe and China

Macron has said Europe should not be "naive" in its trade relations, pushing in Brussels for more stringent anti-dumping rules against imports of cheap Chinese steel.

In June, he urged the European Commission to build a system for screening investments in strategic sectors from outside the bloc. This drew criticism from Beijing.

In Xian, Macron said he hoped EU-Chinese relations could have a new start, based on "balanced trust". He acknowledged there had been mistrust and "legitimate questions" in China as well as fears amongst Europeans.

Europe is now united and ready to cooperate with China after years of crisis-management and economic stagnation, Macron said.

"What I came to tell you, is that Europe is back", he added.

What they are saying

"For the moment, considering how extensive and unclear the Chinese project continues to be, several European countries including France have shown caution about it. For China, the new Silk Roads are also a tool to promote new international standards, rules and norms that are different from those currently used by France and other European countries," - Alice Ekman, from the Paris-based IFRI think-tank.