Macron Adds a Personal Touch to His Diplomacy With China

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, who believes that a personal touch is the key to diplomacy, lured President Xi Jinping of China to a 7,000-foot pass in the Pyrenees on Tuesday, expecting to show off the sweeping views that had stamped his childhood, but instead finding dense fog and wild snow flurries.

It was a long, slippery road up the mountain, under torrential rain, but that didn’t stop crowds of Chinese admirers with red flags and pennants from gathering in almost every village along the way, miraculously transposed to a remote area of southwestern France and seemingly uniform in their enthusiasm.

Undeterred, but running two hours late, Mr. Macron greeted Mr. Xi under an umbrella at one of his favorite restaurants, “L’Auberge du Berger,” or the “Shepherd’s Stop,” where dancers in colorful local dress twirled and jigged to the sounds of a flute, an accordion and a tom-tom.

Mr. Xi was impassive, but his wife, Peng Liyuan, smiled broadly and applauded.

Using the familiar “tu” form to address Mr. Xi, 70, rather than the formal “vous” that would have been more customary between heads of state, Mr. Macron, 46, offered the Chinese leader a yellow jersey signed by last year’s Tour de France winner, Jonas Vingegaard, a Danish cyclist.

“I know how much you love sport,” Mr. Macron said. Mr. Xi is known for his interest in soccer.

The Col du Tourmalet, where the leaders met, has mythical status in the Tour de France; its steep and winding ascent is a severe test. It is also a place dear to Mr. Macron, who regularly came here from his home in northern France to stay at the nearby house of his maternal grandmother, Germaine Nogues, the member of his family about whom he speaks most effusively.

Crowds of Chinese admirers gathered in almost every village along the way.Credit…Pool photo by Aurelien Morissard
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