French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in Shanghai this Monday in a push for China to open its markets to foreign investors, with Chinese officials warning in advance to keep human rights out of the talks.
Macron was to attend an import fair in Shanghai before travelling to Beijing on Wednesday for a state dinner in his second official visit to China as French president.
The trip comes as France and its partners are calling for China to make good on pledges to open its markets to agricultural products and manufactured goods, as well as financial products and other services.
France and the European Union have joined the US in complaining about what they see as unfair trade practices on the part of Beijing.
China meanwhile is grappling with slumping demand that has kept economic growth to 6 percent in the latest quarter, the lowest level in almost three decades.
Human rights are not 'taboo'
While business ties are on the top of the agenda for Macron's visit, French officials told the AFP news agency the president would not shy away from “taboo” topics including Hong Kong protests and the mass detention of Muslims in northwest Xinjiang province.
Human Rights Watch called on Macron to press Chinese President Xi Jinping to close “political education” camps in Xinjiang and to respect the right of citizens of Hong Kong to participate in politics.
Ahead of Macron's visit, Chinese diplomatic official Zhu Jing warned against bringing those issues to the fore.
“Hong Kong and Xinjiang are matters of China's internal affairs,” Zhu told reporters last week. “It is not relevant to put them on the diplomatic agenda.”
Zhu also warned France against playing a “disruptive” role in the Indo-Pacific region after a French frigate sailed through the Taiwan Strait in April.
Commitment to trade
The focus of Macron's visit is on helping French companies strike new deals with the world's second-largest economy, and the French president was to be Xi's guest of honour at the second China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Tuesday.
Macron will also inaugurate a satellite location of Paris' Centre Pompidou modern art museum in Shanghai's West Bund cultural zone.
It will be the two leaders' sixth meeting in three years. Previous meetings have stressed their commitment to multilateralism in the face of US President Donald Trump's “America First” brand of nationalism.
Macron has previously voiced concern over China's massive investments in central and eastern Europe and huge trade surplus with the European Union, warning European “naïveté” towards Beijing is over.