HONG KONG – Chinese President Xi Jinping will make state visits to Europe from this week as he seeks to bolster trade relationships on the continent while trying to end a trade war with the U.S.
Xi will travel to France, Italy and Monaco from Thursday to March 26, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Monday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The invitations were issued by French President Emmanuel Macron, Monaco leader Prince Albert II and Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Lu said.
Xi’s tour comes as European powers work to strike a delicate balance between concerns about Chinese influence with a desire for further investment. China last week vowed greater cooperation on “Belt and Road” ventures with U.S. and European firms, an attempt to counter growing criticism that the initiative aims to project Xi’s influence on host countries.
Italy has been split over whether to sign a memorandum of understanding to participate in Xi’s signature Belt and Road trade and infrastructure program, and is working to solidify accords with Chinese companies in areas from banking to energy.
The country’s willingness to consider doing business with China is fueling concerns in the U.S. and European Union about a Group of Seven country signing up for Belt and Road and allowing China’s interests into sectors like telecoms and ports.
France, meanwhile, has said it will impose new checks on equipment makers including embattled Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co. The U.S. has also recently issued warnings about data theft sponsored by the Chinese state.
There has been speculation that Xi and U.S. President Donald Trump would meet this month to sign an agreement to end the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies, but that isn’t likely to happen until April at the earliest, three people familiar with the matter said.