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Macron's Message To Xi Jinping: Chinese Weapons To Russia Would Change Everything

Ukraine was the trickiest part of French President Emmanuel Macron's state visit to China. And though Xi Jinping didn't say much, Macron made his voice clear on the war and possible arms shipments to Russia — and the West is watching closely.

photo of Xi Jinping looking at Macron

The French President has urged his Chinese counterpart to use his influence to help stop Russia's war in Ukraine.

Pierre Haski


BEIJING — French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese leader Xi Jinping were missing just one outstanding passage in the final Franco-Chinese declaration: the statement on the war in Ukraine. Everything else had been negotiated beforehand by the advisors of the two heads of state.

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Ukraine was indeed the most delicate part of Macron's state visit to China, particularly in light of the Chinese President's recent visit to Moscow and his proclamations of eternal friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Indeed, there was a surprising pas de deux on Ukraine between Emmanuel Macron and Xi Jinping, during a public meeting of the two presidents in front of the international press. Macron said out loud what Xi did not say at all, but he stated it in such a way that it seemed to engage the Chinese side. Xi remained indifferent while the monumental People's Palace in Beijing, a stone's throw from the Forbidden City, echoed with words never heard here: On Russian aggression, on war crimes, on deported Ukrainian children, on the return to the borders of Ukraine…

The French President also said out loud what he did not manage to include in the final communiqué, recalling that Putin had pledged to Xi in Moscow not to station nuclear weapons outside his territory, only to announce three days later that he would place them in Belarus. It was a public airing of the contradictions built into the relationship between Beijing and Moscow.

Real-fake peace plan

Has China moved? Xi Jinping spoke of the need for a political settlement in rather vague terms, as in his real-fake peace plan, reaffirming in particular his stern opposition to the use of nuclear blackmail. China does not seem ready to go any further in its distancing from Moscow, and the Europeans had few illusions before these talks.

The West is passing the message to China on the risk it would take.

But they have come to believe that everything that does not evolve negatively is something of value. One major "negative' would be China's military commitment to Russia by delivering arms. One after the other, the West is passing the message to China on the risk it would take, especially on its economy, if it sent arms to Moscow.

On Wednesday, Macron had warned: "anyone who would help the aggressor would take the risk of being an accomplice." Thursday's statements were therefore reassuring.

Xi Jinping during his state visit to Russia

Pavel Byrkin/TASS/ZUMA

Praise from Xi

The conflict in Ukraine is increasingly seen as the determining factor for future relations between Europe and China in the coming years. The President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, took part in an extended three-way meeting to make this even clearer to Xi Jinping.

The Europeans also came with an offer of dialogue, Macron more frankly than Von der Leyen, certainly. But the French President reiterated his opposition to the logic of blocs, to a new Cold War, a discourse that pleases Beijing, at a time of strong tensions with the United States. Xi also praised the European strategic autonomy so dear to Macron.

But no one is fooled: this European "re-engagement" with Beijing is fragile: and would quickly crumble if China steps up support for Putin's war in Ukraine.

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Migrant Lives

With The Migrants Forced To Face The Perils Of The Darién Gap Journey

The number of migrants and refugees who have passed through the Darien Gap reaches historic figures. So far this year, it is estimated that 250,000 migrants and refugees have crossed through the dangerous Darién jungle, mainly from countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Haiti.

Photo of ​Cheo and Ariana, two migrants hailing from Venezuela, cooking by boats in Necocli.

Cheo and Ariana, two migrants hailing from Venezuela, cooking by boats in Necocli.

Adrià Salido

NECOCLÍ — It is 7 in the morning at the Necoclí pier. Hundreds of migrants and refugees pack their goods in garbage bags. Then, they wait for their name to be called by the company that organizes the boats that will take them to Capurganá or Acandí.

Necoclí, a small Colombian fishing town on the Caribbean coast, has become the hub from where daily masses of people fleeing their countries set out for the Darién Gap — a tropical jungle route beset with wild animals and criminal gangs that connects Colombia to Panama. The journey to the UN camps in Panama can take up to seven days, depending on the conditions along the way.

In May this year, the US revoked Title 42, an emergency restriction imposed during the Trump administration. While on paper the order was meant to stop the spread of Covid-19, in practice it served to block the flow of migrants by allowing border officials to expel them without the opportunity to request asylum.

The termination of Title 42 has seen a dramatic increase in the number of migrants and refugees seeking the "American dream". According to the UN, more than 250,000 people have used the Darién Gap this year, over half of them Venezuelans.

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