Macron is given a rock star welcome at Chinese university

Macron is given a rock star welcome at Chinese university as he is mobbed by hundreds of cheering students – after rioters set fire to his favourite eatery in Paris amid pension reform protests

  • French leader landed in China on Wednesday for talks with Xi Jinping yesterday
  • Macron was given a hero’s welcome by university students in city of Guangzhou
  • Meanwhile in Paris, protesters set fire to Macron’s favourite restaurant amid riots

Emmanuel Macron was greeted by hundreds of students at a university in China today as at the end of a three-day visit in which he has repeatedly pushed his counterpart Xi Jinping to help end the Ukraine conflict.

The French president, who landed in the capital Beijing on Wednesday, has said he is seeking to dissuade China from supporting its ally Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.

This morning he flew to the southern city of Guangzhou, where he was mobbed by hundreds of students desperate for a selfie or a high-five with the leader – a stark contrast to the hundreds of thousands of protesters, some of whom set fire to one of his favourite Parisian restaurants amid riots over pension reforms.

La Rotonde – where Macron celebrated his 2017 election win – was targeted with Molotov cocktails. The venue’s chic outside awning lay in ruins last night and some of its windows were smashed, as police made 20 arrests in the surrounding area. 

Macron, whose name was chanted by some in the crowd in Guangzhou, then spoke to students in the campus gym and answered their questions before an early dinner with Xi ahead of meetings with Chinese investors and a flight home.

It comes after the French leader met Xi for talks in Beijing on Thursday, ultimately failing to encourage him to change his stance on Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. 

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives for a visit at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou on April 7, 2023

Students mobbed the French president as he strolled through the grounds outside the university hall

Chinese students wait for the arrival of French President Emmanuel Macron at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou on April 7, 2023

PARIS: Meanwhile, furious protesters in Paris set fire to one of Macron’s favourite restaurants amid continued fury over his pension reforms

Workers repair the sign of the restaurant La Rotonde in Paris which was partially burnt amid protests

An effigy burns during a demonstration at Place d’Italie, on the 11th day of action after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote, using the article 49.3 of the constitution, in Paris on April 6

Putin’s invasion of his neighbour has dominated Macron’s visit, his first to China since 2019.

READ MORE: ‘Bring Putin to his senses’ Emmanuel Macron tells Xi as he visits China for lavish state reception 



He told students in Guangzhou that the war was ‘a manifest violation of our international law’.

Russia, Macron said, was ‘a country that has decided to colonise its neighbour and not to respect the rules’.

‘The international order is now weakened and we have a responsibility, China and France, to preserve it and at the same time to reinvent it in the light of the realities of the 21st century,’ he said.

Macron also urged them to embrace a ‘critical spirit’ that would allow them to become ‘free, rational individuals’ – another stark contrast with the rigid, state-controlled education to which Chinese students are subject.

In his talks with Xi on Thursday, Macron said: ‘I can count on you to bring Russia to its senses and everyone to the negotiating table.’

A French diplomat told AFP that Xi expressed a willingness to speak with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, but only when the time is right.

At a press conference after the talks, Macron delivered a lengthy speech which eclipsed the Chinese leader’s clipped remarks, a political ‘faux pas’ that appeared to annoy Xi who was seen sighing and shifting his weight uncomfortably as Macron rambled on. 

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who is accompanying Macron on his visit, welcomed Xi’s openness to speaking with Zelensky.

In contrast with the amicable Macron, von der Leyen has struck a more firm tone in her talks with Chinese officials this week.

On Thursday, she said she had shared her ‘deep concerns about the deterioration of the human rights situation in China’ with officials, and warned Beijing that arms shipments to Russia would ‘significantly harm’ relations.

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) meets and speaks with Chinese students during his visit to Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou on April 7, 2023

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and France’s President Emmanuel Macron talk prior to a tea ceremony at the Guandong province governor’s residence in Guangzhou, China, on April 7

Macron and Xi sip tea at the Guandong province governor’s residence in Guangzhou

Macron gestures as he speaks to students at Sun Yat-sen University

President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron after the signing ceremony in Beijing on April 6, 2023

President Xi Jinping holds a trilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

Moscow, however, has poured cold water on prospects of Beijing’s mediation, insisting on Thursday it had ‘no choice’ but to press on with its Ukraine offensive.

‘Undoubtedly, China has a very effective and commanding potential for mediation,’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

‘But the situation with Ukraine is complex, so far there are no prospects for a political settlement.’

Beyond the war in Ukraine, Macron’s visit has also focused on firming up a crucial trade partnership.

The French leader is accompanied in China by more than 50 French business leaders, including the top bosses of Airbus, EDF and Veolia.

Airbus announced Thursday it would open a second final assembly line in China that will double its production capacity in the country, with the framework for the deal signed by chief executive Guillaume Faury in Beijing.

Asia has become a key market for both Airbus and its US rival Boeing, as demand for air travel climbs with an expanding middle class.

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