Leader of NATO member Poland visits China, talks to Xi about Ukraine, peace and trade

BEIJING (AP) — Polish President Andrzej Duda met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping Monday for talks on Ukraine, peace and expanding bilateral trade on a visit to Beijing that brought the head of state of a NATO member to a country that has backed Russia in its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

At their meeting at the Great Hall of the People accompanied by a full honor guard and a 21-gun salute, Duda told Xi that relations between the former Russian-allied nation — which inspired democratic movements with its push for democracy — and China — which is a Communist state — remain strong.

Xi said their relations were friendly.

“Over the past 75 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, bilateral relations have maintained steady development, constantly injecting new vitality into the traditional friendship between the two countries,” Xi said after the two leaders took their seats, surrounded by aides and security guards.

Duda said Poland was hoping for closer commercial relations with China — particularly under Xi’s signature “Belt and Road Initiative” to build transport connections and other infrastructure between China, Europe, Southeast Asia and other regions — largely as a response to overcapacity within China’s huge manufacturing industries, the need to find foreign markets and expand Beijing’s political and economic influence to counter the U.S.-led liberal domestic order.

Poland is seeking new markets for its agricultural products, including poultry, and Duda told Polish media after the talks that they have opened the doors to greater exports to China.

Duda told Polish reporters that their talks lasted for four hours, under different formats, including almost one hour of one-on-one discussion with the Chinese leader.

He said Xi promised a waiver of visas for Poles traveling to China for up to 15 days, a decision he was “very happy about.”

The Russia-Ukraine conflict was on the agenda for talks, and Duda said he laid out in great detail Poland’s point of view on the conflict, on migration pressure exerted by Russia and its ally Belarus on Poland’s border, on security in Europe and the need for peace.

“We have been heard,” he said.

During the meeting, Xi repeatedly said that China wants peace and development in peace, according to Duda.

“I hope that China will support, in the capacity of a world power, and a member of the U.N. Security Council, a peaceful end to the war …. one that would be in accordance with the principles of the international law,” Duda said, stressing that Poland is against changing borders by force.

Poland borders Ukraine and also Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, and has maintained a hard line against further expansion of Russian aggression. But the grinding conflict has raised questions over how to maintain Europe’s economic health and democratic institutions with right-wing politicians making major gains in this month’s European Parliament election.

Duda was seeking a visa waiver for Polish tourists and business people as a means of increasing Poland’s exports to China to balance their trade relations.

State Statistics Poland said that 13.9% of the nation’s imports last year were from China, while Polish exports to China were just a fraction of that amount.

Several trade agreements were signed following the meeting between the two leaders, including on Polish agricultural exports and educational exchanges.

Duda has further meetings in Beijing and will fly to the financial hub of Shanghai to attend a Poland-China economic forum.


Monika Scislowska contributed to this report from Warsaw, Poland.

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