French President Emmanuel Macron and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen began a series of meetings with Chinese leaders in Beijing on Thursday, in talks that could set a new course for the bloc's relations with China after years of strained ties.

Macron held talks with Premier Li Qiang before meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping for an elaborate ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People, where the two leaders witnessed a 21-gun salute and strode side-by-side along a red carpet as a brass band played their national anthems.

Earlier Li met von der Leyen on her first trip to China since taking office as European Commission president in 2019. Ahead of the visit she had said Europe must "de-risk" diplomatically and economically with a hardening China.