France’s Macron embarks on first China visit

French President Emmanuel Macron began his first visit to China on Monday, where he hopes to push for lucrative trade deals and strengthen France’s ties to Chinese projects like the $900 billion Belt and Road Initiative.

French President Emmanuel Macron (2-L) and his wife Brigitte Macron (L) are welcomed by Chinese President Xi Jinping (2-R) and his wife Peng Liyuan (R) before a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, on Monday. Pool Photo by Andy Wong/EPA-EFE
French President Emmanuel Macron (2-L) and his wife Brigitte Macron (L) are welcomed by Chinese President Xi Jinping (2-R) and his wife Peng Liyuan (R) before a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, on Monday. Pool Photo by Andy Wong/EPA-EFE

Macron, 40, began the trip in the ancient Chinese capital of Xi’an.

It was a symbolic gesture signaling his support for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plan to link Europe and Asia through new infrastructure, The Guardian reported Monday.

Xi’an is located in landlocked western China.

“China is a country that fascinates me, like so many French people…[it is] the oldest living civilization — a ‘state older than history,’ as Gen. de Gaulle once said,” Macron said, according to Chinese state media.

The French president, who won the election last year in a landslide victory against National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, said France is in a position to assist China expand its network to Africa.

Macron condemned France’s past colonial exploits in Africa but added collaboration with China in a “new Silk Road” could avoid the mistakes of the past, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

France is expected to sign 50 economic cooperation deals with China this week.

Airbus, the European multinational aeronautics firm with headquarters in Toulouse, is reportedly negotiating a $10 billion deal in China.

The firm seeks to sell more than 100 passenger planes in the world’s second-largest economy.

The highlight of Macron’s charm offensive is his gift of a presidential cavalry horse, Vesuvius, to Xi.

Macron and Xi met in Beijing on Monday, and more talks are expected Tuesday.

By Elizabeth Shim