Xi Visits Europe, Seeking Strategic Opportunity

On his first visit to Europe in five years, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, appears intent on seizing opportunities to loosen the continent’s bonds with the United States and forge a world freed of American dominance.

The Chinese leader has chosen three countries to visit — France, Serbia and Hungary — that each, to a greater or lesser degree, look askance at America’s postwar ordering of the world, see China as a necessary counterweight and are eager to bolster economic ties.

At a time of tensions with much of Europe — over China’s “no limits” embrace of Russia despite the war in Ukraine, its surveillance state and its apparent espionage activities that led to the recent arrest in Germany of four people — Mr. Xi, who is arriving in France on Sunday, wants to demonstrate China’s growing influence on the continent and pursue a pragmatic rapprochement.

For Europe, the visit will test its delicate balancing act between China and the United States, and will no doubt be seen in Washington as a none-too-subtle effort by Mr. Xi to divide Western allies.

He has timed his arrival at his second stop, Serbia, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the deadly NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo war. That mistaken strike on May 7, 1999, for which the White House apologized, killed three Chinese journalists and ignited furious protests around the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

“For Xi, being in Belgrade is a very economical way to ask if the United States is really serious about international law,” said Janka Oertel, the director of the Asia program at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, “and to say, how about NATO overreach as a problem for other countries?”

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