Xi to Make First Trip to EU Since 2019 as Tensions Flare

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit the European Union for the first time in about five years as tensions mount over a range of issues including trade, spy allegations and Beijing’s support for Russia.

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Xi will travel to France and Hungary during the trip that runs May 5-10, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Monday, without providing a detailed agenda.

The Chinese leader will also make a stop in Serbia, which is not an EU member, during the visit that’s expected to fall around the 25th anniversary of the deadly US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. That could spotlight an event that sparked anti-US protests at home and helped seed Beijing’s distrust of NATO.

Beijing is pushing to repair relations with Europe as Brussels has become more assertive in responding to China’s trade policies. European leaders have pushed back against China’s surge in manufacturing capacity, its massive trade surplus and its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A flurry of spying accusations in recent days also reflects the continent’s more assertive stance on Beijing’s espionage activities.

The tour is “vitally important to promote ties between China and France, Serbia, Hungary and the EU at large,” Lin Jian, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said at a regular briefing on Monday. Xi will meet with the leaders of the three nations during his visit, Lin added.

The Chinese leader visited Moscow in March 2023, his first state visit to Russia since it invaded Ukraine, in a show of support for President Vladimir Putin. The two met again in Beijing in October, underscoring their close ties.

--With assistance from Lin Chen.

(Updates with details of Russian trip in final paragraph)

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