Emmanuel Macron denounced Friday in Canton the war started by Russia in Ukraine with Chinese students, before a tea ceremony then a dinner with his counterpart Xi Jinping.
The French president's trip to this southern Chinese city concludes a three-day state visit which first took him to Beijing and aimed to renew face-to-face ties after three years of relations in distance due to Covid.
Mr. Macron made the conflict in Ukraine the main theme of this trip, calling on China on Thursday to "bring Russia to its senses" vis-à-vis Kiev.
Arriving in the early afternoon in Guangzhou, the third Chinese city with 15 million inhabitants, he immediately went to Sun Yat-sen University where the crowd present warmly welcomed him, many people waving their cell phones hoping for a selfie with him.
In the campus gymnasium, he denounced, in front of an audience of a thousand students, the military intervention of Russia in Ukraine.
"It's a country that decides to colonize its neighbour, not to respect the rules, to redeploy arms, to invade it," he insisted.
This university, one of the most prestigious in China, has partnerships with 24 French institutions including the Ecole Normale Supérieure, the Lyon School of Management and the University of Angers.
It is also associated with a consortium of engineering schools within the framework of the Franco-Chinese Institute for Nuclear Energy.
After this meeting with the students, Emmanuel Macron joined Xi Jinping on the island of Shamian, in the heart of Canton.
The two men walked together through the garden to the governor's residence of Guangdong province, where Mr. Xi's father, Xi Zhongxun, lived when he held the post from 1978 to 1981.
In a rural setting facing a lake, they then took part in a tea ceremony, during which the Chinese president recalled some childhood memories: "I came here very often, in 1978, I was a student ( ...) and I came here to visit my father".
After the ceremony, the two leaders took part in a private dinner.
Did they bring up the war in Ukraine again?
Xi Jinping undertook in any case on Friday to "support any effort to restore peace in Ukraine", according to a joint statement at least on this subject.
The text does not mention Russia and does not condemn its military intervention in Ukraine.
The day before, Messrs. Macron and Xi had both called for peace talks as soon as possible and rejected any recourse to nuclear weapons.
But if, as we are assured on the French side, Xi Jinping has said he is ready to call his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, the Chinese president has made it clear that he will do so when he himself chooses.
A gesture of openness which remains to be confirmed but deemed "positive" by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, also in Beijing on Thursday.
In recent weeks, international pressure has mounted a notch on China to encourage it to get involved in the search for peace.
On Thursday, however, the Kremlin ruled out the possibility of Chinese mediation to stop the fighting because "the situation with Ukraine is complex, there are no prospects for a political settlement".
Before flying back to Paris on the night of Friday to Saturday, Mr. Macron was to have an evening meeting with two Chinese investors: Tang Jiexiong, the president of the Wencan group, then Jiang Long, the general manager of XTC New. Energy Materials.
Wencan is a high-pressure foundry group for the automotive industry, specializing in the manufacture of aluminum spare parts, while XTC New Energy Materials specializes in the production of materials for lithium batteries used in particular for electric vehicles.
07/04/2023 15:58:35 - Canton (AFP) - © 2023 AFP