PARIS: The leaders of China, France, Germany and the EU were set to meet in Paris on Tuesday for "unprecedented" talks on how to improve ties, despite growing jitters over Beijing's massive investments in Europe.
It comes ahead of an EU-China summit in Brussels next month and a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping signed an array of deals with France including a huge aircraft contract.
At a glitzy state dinner on Monday evening French President Emmanuel Macron said he hoped to build a "new global governance" with China and would discuss this at the "unprecedented meeting with the German chancellor and the president of the European Commission".
"This is an important gesture that we are making now. It is testament to your deep attachment to China's cooperation with Europe and my desire to build a strong Europe," he told Xi.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker will join Xi and Macron at the Elysee Palace to explore "points of convergence" between the two trading giants.
On Monday China and France inked a dozen deals on nuclear power, cultural exchanges and clean energy, while Beijing also committed to buy 290 Airbus A320s and 10 A350 airliners from Europe's Airbus conglomerate.
The order, originally for 184 A320s for 13 Chinese airlines, was first announced during Macron's state visit to China in January 2018.
All of the deals, including one on French exports to China of frozen chicken, amount to a total of some $40 billion.
Xi's visit poses a particular challenge for Macron, who wants to deepen EU ties with China while pushing back against Beijing's growing global clout.
Speaking at the Elysee Palace on Monday following talks with Xi, Macron called for a "strong Europe-China partnership", adding that this must be based on "strong multilateralism" and "fair and balanced" trade.
Meanwhile Xi stressed that "a united and prosperous Europe fits in with our vision of a multipolar world".
"China will always back European integration and its development," he added in a statement to the press.
Around 200 guests including the French actor Alain Delon, who is widely known in China, French electronic music composer Jean-Michel Jarre and Chinese actress Gong Li attended the state dinner on Monday.