China has been hosting high-level and high-profile visits by key leaders from Europe to South America as it tries to showcase its global reach and influence.
After years of appearing isolated amid the COVID-19 crisis and tensions with the West, China is showing that it not only has its allies among certain groupings of states, such as the SCO, CICA and BRICS groups but also is now making inroads in France, Brazil and elsewhere.
This comes at a difficult time for the US amid the recent intelligence leaks and also a difficult time in Europe as countries try to create a unified view on the Ukraine-Russia War.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva arrived recently in China for a major state visit. According to reports, China is Brazil’s larger trading partner. Lula wants Brazil, China and other nations to help mediate the war as part of his nation’s return to the world stage, but his proposals to end the conflict have irked Ukraine and some in the West, the AP said. "Less controversial is the Brazilian and Chinese mutual interest in trade after a rocky period under Lula’s predecessor."
This is an important move and reports say some 20 bilateral agreements will be signed.
French President Emmanuel Macron was also in China recently. His visit raised eyebrows as he seemed very enthusiastic in China. EU Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, was also in China and urged a “de-risking” of relations with China. The Guardian in the UK noted that Macron’s “remarks to journalists on the way home seized attention.
Observing – in the context of Taiwan – that Europe should not be a ‘vassal’ to the US or get caught up in crises that ‘are not our own’ undermined support for democracy and sparked anger across European capitals. The German parliamentarian Norbert Röttgen attacked ‘a PR coup for Xi [Jinping] and a foreign policy disaster for Europe.’”
A major diplomatic offensive for China
The twin visits of Macron and Lula represent a major diplomatic offensive for China. It shows that China is once again hosting major visits and China is also showcasing how much importance it puts on these visits. These are not the normal relations China has already carved out with Russia, Iran and others, where China hopes to help create a new world order that creates a multi-polar world. These are visits designed to push Beijing’s influence in the West.
Meanwhile, China is doing the same in the Gulf and the Middle East. Beijing is also working with countries that neighbor Afghanistan to set a policy on Kabul. All of these moves will be watched closely in regard to what happens next. The West was mostly unified in its approach to the Ukraine war. China now appears to be stepping in, a year into the conflict, sensing that the West is not as unified as it appears.