Xi Jinping’s Europe Visit Bolsters India’s Strategic Position

The context of Xi’s visit is burgeoning European desire to consolidate a European geopolitical salience

Xi Jinping’s Europe Visit Enhances India’s Strategic Interests

When China’s supreme leader Xi Jinping recently toured Europe, he concluded assorted agreements with France, the more refined of the European Union’s twin hearts, Serbia, a candidate member of the EU, and Hungary, the EU’s perpetual bad boy, often friendlier with Moscow than with Brussels. It was seen as a triumph of Chinese diplomacy, designed to reinforce Europe’s resistance to American pressure to choke off the burgeoning Chinese lead in high-tech and otherwise isolate Beijing.

What has mostly escaped notice is that Xi Jinping conducted himself in a way as if he had had a friendly back-channel chat with India’s foreign policy establishment before setting off for Paris. His strengthening of the commercial and diplomatic engagement with Europe drives a wedge between the US and Europe, helping along a growing European ambition to consolidate its own geopolitical presence.

It is in India’s interest for the world in which it operates to be multipolar, rather than be forced to conform to the arbitrary wishes of a global hegemon, whose help India needs to resist that hegemon’s only significant rival, which happens to have an extensive land border with India and constantly seeks to push it ever so little into India’s territory.

Macron’s Vision of Stronger Europe, Without US Aid

Xi Jinping’s visit took place soon after French President Emmanuel Macron’s major speech at the Sorbonne, in which he returned to a theme articulated first in 2017 at the same venue: the need to look history in the eye and admit that Europe could well die, if not resolutely rejuvenated.

He wants Europe to be truly united, to make investments in science, technology and new businesses as Europe, rather than merely as individual, competing nations and companies, to proceed beyond a banking union to unified capital markets, so as to be able to allocate capital efficiently to promising ideas that transform into businesses that build the future, to end outsourcing European security to America, and to have a common policy towards and solution for the problem of migration.

A language, it has pithily been observed, is a dialect with an army and a navy. A language is but one facet of a culture or a civilisation. The French president’s desire is to protect and enhance European culture and civilisation, to describe which he borrowed from letter to a German friend by Albert Camus: “Our Europe is a shared adventure which we will continue to pursue, despite you, in the wind of intelligence.” This adventure was launched from Renaissance and the Enlightenment and pursues liberty, rationality and fraternity.

Europe must have strong borders, true, says Macron, but also a horizon. Within that horizon, Macron wants Europe to see the Levant and Africa, helping whom develop is the ultimate solution to the problem of unwanted immigration into Europe.

Europe’s China Policy Could be Mutually Beneficial

Macron sees Europe being 30 years behind the US in science, technology and business innovation. With justification: the combined market capitalisation of America’s seven tech giants alone is greater than the market value of all companies listed in the EU. He does not see Europe cleaving to the American prescription to isolate China. In his interview to the Economist, Macron defended his desire for European self-reliance in defence in terms of not making the US choose between its China policy European security.

The other beating heart of the EU is, of course, Germany. German chancellor Olaf Sholz is far less Jupiterian in his vision, compared to Macron, and relatively tongue-tied when it comes to articulating whatever vision he has, but is unlikely to risk German industry’s massive China market to toe the US line on isolating China.

The US has slapped tariffs in excess of 100% on China-made electric vehicles (EVs). The EU can, in theory, follow, without pain to China, thanks to Chinese investments in EV and battery factories within the EU, in Hungary. (This suggests that the ultimate beneficiary of Biden’s tariffs on Chinese EVs would be Mexico, as Chinese companies make tariff-jumping investments in EV factories in that country, with which the US has a free trade agreement.) But restrictive tariffs on Chinese EVs and other green energy components could risk tit-for-tat tariffs on German cars, French wine and perfume and Italian luxury in China.

On the other hand, if the EU plays its cards right, Chinese airlines that cannot get enough of China-made C919 passenger planes could be persuaded to choose offerings from Airbus, in preference to planes made by Boeing.

The Ukraine war has persuaded all European countries to step up their defence budgets, only to see their funds flowing out across the Atlantic to American arms manufacturers. The desire to build up a larger and more sophisticated European defence industry waxes strong at the moment. Xi Jinping’s president-level diplomacy is well-placed to shore up Europe’s rediscovery of its geopolitical salience.

This suits India just fine.

TK Arun is a senior journalist based in Delhi.

The article was first published in Money Control as ‘Xi Jinping’s Europe visit works to India’s advantage‘ on May 17, 2024.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organisation.

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Acknowledgment: This article was posted by Mansi Garg, a Visiting Researcher and Assistant Editor at IMPRI.


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  • TK Arun

    TK Arun is a Senior Journalist and Columnist based in Delhi.

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