Visiting Europe, Xi Jinping brings up an old grievance

THE POPULATION of Serbia is less than one-third of Beijing’s. China’s trade with the Balkan country is less than one-fortieth of that with Germany. Yet for China’s ruler, Xi Jinping, Serbia is important. It is a rare close friend on a continent where wariness of China has become the norm. It also happens that the country’s capital, Belgrade, witnessed a seminal moment in the evolution of West-despising Chinese nationalism. Twenty-five years ago American bombs hit the Chinese embassy there (pictured), killing three people. On his first visit to Europe since 2019 Mr Xi has been holding talks with Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, hoping to persuade him and his allies that China and its high-tech products are good for them. On May 7th and 8th, in Serbia, Mr Xi will use the anniversary of the bombing to make another point: that the Western-led order is bad and must be changed.

The world has changed dramatically since Mr Xi’s previous visit to Europe. A pandemic has swept it, keeping Mr Xi from venturing abroad for more than two and a half years. (Even in 2023, after China lifted its draconian “zero-covid” restrictions, Mr Xi seldom left the country.) Russia—China’s “no limits” partner—has mounted an all-out invasion of Ukraine, plunging Europe into its biggest security crisis since the cold war. Under President Joe Biden, America has ramped up a tech war with China aimed at curtailing its access to cutting-edge kit. The European Union has begun talking of a need to “de-risk” its relationship with China. Amid accusations that China is dumping underpriced goods on Western markets, calls for retaliation have been growing in Europe and elsewhere.