French President Emmanuel Macron, his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hold a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, France, March 26, 2019.
French President Emmanuel Macron, his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hold a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, France, March 26, 2019.

PARIS - Top European Union leaders joined Chinese President Xi Jinping in Paris in stressing multilateralism to address issues from peace and security to climate change and trade.

The Paris meeting with Xi, which came ahead of a key EU-China summit planned for April 9, brought together some of the bloc’s biggest heavyweights: President Emmanuel Macron of France, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping attend a wreath laying ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris, March 25, 2019.
Chinese Leader's Visit to Paris Seen as Test for European Unity
Chinese President Xi Jinping has been treated to a sumptuous dinner near Nice and an official welcome by his French counterpart at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris — not to mention a 17th-century French translation of Confucius.But Xi's three-day visit to France, which began Sunday, promises to be a much bigger challenge than his past two stopovers.

At a joint press conference following the talks, Macron stressed what he described as areas of convergence between the European Union and China, two of the world’s biggest economic powers. Among them: intensifying the fight against climate change, denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and development and security in Africa.

Both sides, Macron said, want to construct a renewed multilateralism that is more just and balanced.

President Xi said the world is facing major challenges and peace and development were key. He described the growing threat of protectionism and unilateralism.

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancello
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping leave following a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, March 26, 2019.

The cooperation through which China hopes to expand its ambitious 'Belt and Road' infrastructure and investment initiative initiative, however, is controversial and divisive within the European Union. As Germany's Merkel said, "Europe wants to join the Belt and Road plan, but it demands reciprocity."

Several areas stressed by the two sides, including EU and Chinese support for the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, contrast with positions taken by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Chinese leader’s visit to France is the last leg of a European trip marked by multibillion dollar deals, including a major Chinese purchase of Airbus planes.

President of Airbus Commercial Aircraft, Guillaume Faury, and Chairman of China Aviation Supplies Co., Jia Baojun, shake hands during an agreement signing ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, March 25, 2019.
Airbus Wins China Order for 300 Jets as Xi Visits France
Airbus signed a deal worth tens of billions of dollars on Monday to sell 300 aircraft to China as part of a trade package coinciding with a visit to Europe by Chinese President Xi Jinping and matching a China record held by rival Boeing.The deal between Airbus and China's state buying agency, China Aviation Supplies Holding Company, which regularly coordinates headline-grabbing deals during diplomatic visits, will include 290 A320-family jets and 10 A350 wide-body jets. …

Earlier during Xi's visit to in Rome, Italy became the first G-7 nation to sign on to China’s Belt and Road project.

Xi’s visit was greeted by some rights protests. Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders also released a new report on China’s alleged efforts to stifle media freedom abroad, as well as at home.

Cedric Alviani, the group's East Asia Bureau director, said, “What we expect from that report is that, all around the world, journalists would start investigating in their city, in their region, in their country on the way Chinese authorities are pushing their influence.”

Alviani said China’s Belt and Road initiative is one way Beijing is spreading not only its economic, but also its ideological influence.