Chinese President Xi Jinping embarks on his first visit to Europe since the pandemic.

Xi’s itinerary includes stops in France, Hungary, and Serbia, hoping to deepen ties with European nations. French President Emmanuel Macron, welcoming Xi at the Élysée Palace, stressed the need for European-Chinese dialogue despite tensions over trade and conflicts such as the war in Ukraine.

Macron’s priority is to urge Xi to adopt a firmer stance on Russia, especially in light of China’s past support for Moscow. However, previous attempts by European officials to sway Xi’s position on Russia have been unsuccessful.

In response, Xi reiterated China’s commitment to dialogue and sovereignty, urging a positive approach from European Union institutions. Yet, disagreements persist, particularly regarding trade practices and China’s influence in critical industries like electric vehicles and renewable energy.

Despite the challenges, Xi seeks to highlight China’s role as a strategic partner, especially in nations like Hungary and Serbia, where Chinese investment projects, such as the Budapest-Belgrade railway, symbolize China’s growing influence through initiatives like the Belt and Road.