French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured) will meet with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing on Thursday
French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured) will meet with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing on Thursday AFP

French and EU leaders will on Thursday seek to make Europe's case for bringing an end to the conflict in Ukraine in a Beijing meeting with Xi Jinping, a close ally of Vladimir Putin.

French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen will be greeted late afternoon by the Chinese president at the Great Hall of the People, the heart of power in the capital.

Western pressure is mounting on China to take a more active role in the peace process in Ukraine -- though Beijing is officially neutral, Xi has never condemned the Russian invasion.

While he recently went to Moscow to reaffirm his alliance with Putin -- framed as an anti-Western front -- Xi has not even spoken on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Macron, who arrived in Beijing on Wednesday afternoon for a three-day state visit, said he wants to "be a voice that unites Europe" over Ukraine, and that coming to China with von der Leyen serves to "underline the consistency of this approach".

On Wednesday, Macron said Beijing had a "major role" to play in finding a path to peace in Ukraine, welcoming China's claimed "willingness to commit to a resolution" of the conflict.

Von der Leyen took a sterner tack last week in Brussels, saying: "How China continues to interact with Putin's war will be a determining factor for EU-China relations going forward."

In a Thursday morning meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the Great Hall of the People, Macron stressed the importance of dialogue between China and France "in these troubled times".

"The ability to share a common analysis and build a common path is essential," he said.

Macron is set to meet the head of China's top legislative body, Zhao Leji, before a one-on-one meeting with Xi in the afternoon.

The pair will give statements to the press, followed by a three-way meeting with von der Leyen and, finally, a state dinner.

The visit comes in the face of mounting Chinese pressure on Taiwan, with the island's President Tsai Ing-wen meeting in California with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Macron told journalists Wednesday he did not think his Chinese counterparts had "a desire to overreact" to the meeting.

Tsai hailed the talks, saying they showed the self-ruled island was "not isolated" on the international stage.

Beijing balks at any official contact between Taipei and the rest of the world, insisting there is only "one China".

China had repeatedly warned both sides the meeting should not take place and deployed an aircraft carrier through waters near Taiwan hours before the talks went ahead.

Three additional warships were detected in waters separating the island from mainland China, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence said on Thursday morning.