President Xi Jinping travels to Italy and France this month for his first overseas trip of 2019. His visit comes soon after the European Commission labeled China a “systemic rival” and “economic competitor.” In this podcast, Paul Haenle spoke with Philippe Le Corre, nonresident senior fellow in the Europe and Asia programs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on Xi Jinping’s upcoming trip and shifting perceptions of China across Europe.

Le Corre said Xi’s trip to Rome will focus on the Belt and Road Initiative, as Italy is expected to be the first G7 country to pledge its support for the project. In Paris, discussions will center on global governance issues, such as World Trade Organization reform and implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement, as well as growing controversy over Chinese investments in sensitive technologies like 5G. Xi’s objective for both trips is to shore up ties with key European partners, Le Corre argued. The European Commission’s labeling China a “systemic rival” represents a harsh rebuke of Beijing’s behavior by the European Union (EU). However, he pointed to Europe’s lack of cohesiveness and countries’ divergent views on how best to engage with China as the primary challenges for the EU in formulating a comprehensive strategy for Beijing. With regard to technology competition, Le Corre argued Huawei’s fate in Europe has not yet been decided.

Paul Haenle

Paul Haenle holds the Maurice R. Greenberg Director’s Chair at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy based at Tsinghua University in Beijing. His research focuses on Chinese foreign policy and U.S.-China relations.

Philippe Le Corre

Philippe Le Corre is a nonresident senior fellow in the Europe and Asia Programs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He specializes in China’s global rise, China’s relations with Europe and Eurasia, competition in the Asia-Pacific region, and Chinese foreign direct investments.