Xi’s Europe Trip Shows China’s Weakened Standing

Ten years of difficulties have eroded Xi’s influence in Europe.

What’s happening: Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping embarked on a trip to Europe, visiting France, Hungary, and Serbia. It is his first trip to the continent in five years.

Why it matters: Xi’s stripped-down trip reveals the weakened state of Chinese-European Union relations and China’s loss of influence on the continent.

Flashback: Ten years ago, in 2014, Xi visited four European countries: the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and France. He would follow that up with visits to Italy, Greece, and elsewhere in the bloc.

  • The scale: Xi met with all three principal E.U. leaders (the Commission President, the Council President, and the Parliament President) and delivered a speech to the parliament.

But now, his 2024 visit is much more stripped back. He went to France to celebrate 60 years of relations with France and only met European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Paris — a far cry from when he was welcomed to Brussels (only about 160 minutes from Paris) in 2014.

  • The others: Hungary, under Viktor Orbán, has been more open to working with China than other E.U. countries. And Serbia, which is not in the E.U. and counts China as its largest investor, has never been in the West’s orbit.

China’s recent troubles in Europe:

  • Trade: Europe was inundated with Chinese cars, which threatened domestic auto manufacturing and led European leaders to start resisting the imbalanced trade.

  • Relations: Concerns over spying have caused Europe to reject allowing Huawei, a Chinese company, to build its 5G networks.

  • Influence: The Baltics, followed by Italy, even left China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative, one of Xi’s major global influence projects.

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