French President Emmanuel Macron has appealed to Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help bring “lasting peace” to Ukraine by pressuring Russia to end its invasion of the country. During a meeting with Xi in Beijing, Macron pointed to China’s support for the United Nations Charter and nuclear agreements, which call for the respect of a country’s territorial integrity, saying that peace and stability based on those principles were threatened by Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
China is the biggest buyer of Russian oil and gas, which helps prop up the Kremlin’s revenue in the face of Western sanctions, increasing Chinese influence but making Xi reluctant to jeopardize that partnership by pressuring Putin.
Macron was accompanied to Beijing by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a show of European unity. Last week, von der Leyen warned that the European Union must be prepared to develop measures to protect trade and investment that China might exploit for security and military purposes.
Meanwhile, NATO’s 31 member countries warned Wednesday of “severe consequences” should China start sending weapons and ammunition to Russia. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said giving lethal aid would be a “historic mistake.” He warned there would be “severe consequences” but declined to give details.
China has tried to appear neutral on the issue of Ukraine, calling for peace talks and saying it has always adhered to an objective and fair position on the issue of the Ukraine crisis. Xi’s government sees Russia as a source of energy and as a partner in opposing what they say is US aggression and unfair criticism of their human rights records.
Xi’s government declared it had a “no limits friendship” with Russia ahead of the February 2022 attack but has tried to balance this with its relationship with France and Europe, which it sees as “staunch promoters of multipolarization of the world”, a reference to reducing US dominance in economic and political affairs.
The meeting between Macron and Xi is expected to “send positive signals of concerted efforts by China, France and Europe to maintain world peace and stability,” according to China’s Premier Li Qiang. While Li said there was likely to be a “broad consensus” between Macron and Xi, he gave no indication whether Beijing might be willing to lobby Moscow to make peace.