Chinese President in France to build on economic expansion

Xi Jinping is seeking European support for his Belt and Road Initiative

French President Emmanuel Macron, 2nd left, and his wife Brigitte Macron, left, welcomes Chinese President Chinese President Xi Jinping, 2nd right, and his wife wife Peng Liyuan at the Villa Kerylos in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, southern France, Sunday, March, 24, 2019. Chinese President Xi Jinping is coming to Monaco and France amid mixed feelings in Europe about China's growing global influence. (Jean-Paul Pelissier/Pool Photo via AP)
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China’s President Xi Jinping has arrived in France as he seeks to expand economic cooperation with Europe through his ambitious ‘Silk Road’ project. French leader Emmanuel Macron is to be joined by European political heavyweights as they seek to create a united front against China’s increasing presence on the continent.

Mr Xi has been in Italy, the first G7 country to sign up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a huge undertaking that seeks to join the Far East giant with Europe and elsewhere. Some world leaders are fearful it is a Chinese effort to further extend its reach across the global, something Beijing denies.

In France, the two leaders are likely to sign a number of deals on nuclear power, clean energy and aerospace. Mr Macron tweeted that the “visit will strengthen our strategic partnership and affirm the role of France, Europe and China towards a strong multi-lateralism”.

On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker are expected to join the talks to look at “points of convergence” in light of an EU-China summit set for April.

The groundbreaking Belt and Road Initiative seeks to stimulate growth and trade across the world with as much as $1 trillion of investment.

Mr Xi's visit marks 55 years since French leader Charles de Gaulle established diplomatic relations with Beijing.

A series of cooperation deals on nuclear power, aerospace and clean energy initiatives, some involving lucrative contracts, are expected to be signed.

In an interview with the Nice-Matin newspaper after hosting Xi at a dinner on the French Riveria, Mr Macron said the joint talks "would allow us to establish a common definition for a new international order".

France also wants to engage China as a closer partner as Washington makes a clear withdrawal from global affairs under Trump's "America First" policy.

Mr Macron could try to garner Chinese support for the French-backed G5 Sahel force fighting Islamist extremists in Western Africa, French  presidential aides reportedly  said.