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China's inexorable rise being helped by US' retreat

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The first stop on French President Emmanuel Macron's trip to China last week was, curiously, not Beijing.

He arrived in the central Chinese city of Xi'an, a town fabled for its imperial tomb filled with terracotta warriors, as well as its role as the historic gateway to the Silk Road.

The President was deliberately pandering to China's sense of its past. "Our relationship is anchored in time and, in my opinion, is based on civilisation, in the sense that France and China are two countries with very different cultures but which both have a universal calling," Mr Macron told the Chinese media.

"They are two countries that have always been eager, across distances, to meet and recognise each other. It's for all these reasons that I wanted to start my state visit in Xi'an - it's a way to experience ancient China."

Mr Macron used the occasion to extend a hand to Beijing: "What I came to tell you is that Europe is back," he said, signalling a contrast between the "America First" nationalism of President Donald Trump and the openness of China's other interlocutors in the West.

In turn, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed his desire to "protect multilateralism" and the pillars of the global economy.

The rhetoric is already a dramatic illustration of how far China has come.

For decades, the ruling Communist Party has publicly groused about the "century of humiliation" endured by China at the hands of imperial European powers from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s.

Resentment over this experience of colonial bullying and coercion, subjugation and war remains a crucial plank........

© The Straits Times