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China's Xi to visit Europe in bid to boost trade
[HONG KONG] Chinese leader Xi Jinping will make state visits to Europe from this week as he seeks to bolster trade relationships on the continent while trying to end a trade war with the US.
The Chinese president will travel to France, Italy and Monaco from March 21 to 26, China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Monday, as reported by the official Xinhua News Agency. The invitations were issued by French President Emmanuel Macron, Monaco's leader Prince Albert II and Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Mr Lu said.
Mr Xi's tour comes as European powers work to strike a delicate balance between concerns about Chinese influence with a desire for further investment. China last week vowed greater cooperation on Belt and Road ventures with US and European firms, an attempt to counter growing criticism that the initiative aims to project Mr Xi's influence on host countries.
Italy has been split over whether to sign a memorandum of understanding to participate in Mr Xi's signature Belt and Road trade and infrastructure programme, and is working to solidify accords with Chinese companies in areas from banking to energy.
The country's willingness to consider doing business with China is fuelling concerns in the US and European Union about a G-7 country signing up for Belt and Road and allowing China's interests into sectors like telecoms and ports.
France, meanwhile, has said it will impose new checks on equipment makers including embattled Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co. The US has also recently issued warnings about data theft sponsored by the Chinese state.
There has been speculation that Mr Xi and US President Donald Trump would meet this month to sign an agreement to end the trade war between the world's two biggest economies, but that isn't likely to happen until April at the earliest, three people familiar with the matter said.