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The uncertain outcome of President Macron’s visit to China

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The uncertain outcome of President Macron’s visit to China

For Emmanuel Macron, the internal problems surrounding the controversial pension reform and his own presidential model, which does not pay much attention to civil society, were not enough. They had already caused an uproar the positions expressed during the three-day visit to Chinabut a real diplomatic case was unleashed after the interview given on the plane, during the return journey, to the newspapers Les Echos, France Inter and POLITICO.

“Europe must resist pressure to become vassals of America, says Macron” headlined POLITICO. Macron invited Europeans “not to get involved in crises that are not ours, thus hindering the construction of their own strategic autonomy”. And he added: “Is it in our interest to precipitate the Taiwan crisis? No“. Hence the whole sequence of concepts with which the French president intended to propose (in terms different from those presented at the Sorbonne in 2017) his idea of ​​strategic autonomy: the states of the European Union cannot represent themselves as “vassals of the United States“, and rather the European Union must constitute a “third pole” in the face of the hegemonic challenge between China and the United States.

For Macron it is therefore necessary “not to enter into a logic of blockade against blockade. On the contrary, we must not depend on the other… for a sort of panic reflex”. Other passages concerned the need for Europe to concentrate on strengthening its defense sector, and the intention for Europe to reduce its dependence on the “extraterritoriality of the US dollar”.

The reactions between Europe and the United States

Antoine Bondaz, researcher of the Foundation for Strategic Research he wrote in a tweet: “The timing of the declaration is catastrophic (…) Macron plays into Beijing’s hands (…) which reduces Taiwanese and American deterrence and increases the risk of a conflict”. Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki he was caustic: “Instead of building a strategic autonomy detached from the United States, I propose a strategic partnership with them.” In Germany, the spokesman for foreign policy Metin Hakverdi of the SPD, Chancellor Scholz’s party, highlighted that a division in the West on relations with Beijing would be a serious mistake: “This weakens our Western community of values”, he said, adding that “with regard to China, the West, Europe and the United States must always try to act together, and not be divided”.

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Give him United States the republican Mark Rubio was among the most explicit: “Europe, including France, has been heavily dependent on the United States for 70 years for its own defense.” And he added: «We are spending a lot of our taxpayers’ money on the European war… if in fact Macron speaks for all of Europe, and their position now is that they are not going to choose sides between the United States and China versus Taiwan, perhaps we too should choose which side to take… Perhaps we should say that we will focus on Taiwan and the threats coming from China, while you, gentlemen, take care of Ukraine and Europe».

The clarifications of the Elysium

There was already enough for the Elysium to intervene with a long official note to correct the course. The crucial passages of the press release deserve attention:

1) The President of the Republic has often stated that France is not equidistant between the United States and China. The United States are our allies, we share common values.

2) The French position on Taiwan is constant: we uphold the status quo and maintain exchanges and cooperation with Taiwanwhich is a recognized democratic system.

3) Europeans have their own interests and they must pursue them transparently and loyally with their international allies and partners: a sovereign Europe is necessary for world equilibrium, be it trade, promoting our values, respecting the law, developing and maintaining international peace and security. The common framework therefore is “to involve China and avoid the fragmentation of the world“, as well as “to maintain an open Indo-Pacific, based on respect for international rules and cooperation in the face of global challenges”.

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Finally, the more considered vision of the Elysee emerges: “Preserving the stability of the international order means avoid China’s involvement in the war in Ukraine and involve her in efforts to negotiate a lasting settlement. This also means preventing increased risks in the Taiwan Strait. The President of the Republic also spoke about it with President Biden and clearly told President Xi Jinping that the question of Taiwan must be addressed through dialogue”.

Europe facing the hegemonic challenges of Russia and China

The theme of relations with the USA will certainly have to be studied in depth, especially on the new protectionist line of the US economy adopted with the IRA, theInflaction Reduction Actthe law that introduces a massive package of public subsidies that could divert the investments of companies in Europe overseas, attracted by competitive advantages and lower energy costs: it is a fact on which it will be necessary to reopen the dialogue with the United States.

On the other hand it must be noted that in this historical moment, in which on the one hand the state of relations between the United States, the Russian Federation and China is at a minimum and on the other hand the war in Ukraine calls the West to really show great cohesion, Macron’s plan for “strategic autonomy” appears unrealistic and takes on the features of an improvident declaration beyond any reasonable evaluation of the real needs of other European countries. It is enough to refer to the welcome that President Biden received in Poland in particular to realize what the bond that unites Europe to the United States means in this phase in which especially the populations and states of Eastern Europe (apart from controversial case of Orbàn’s Hungary) feel alive on the skin threat incumbent of Putin’s imperial design. Other European countries like the Finland and the Sweden they abandoned their historic neutrality to join NATO, the only defense organization capable of expressing concrete deterrence in the face of current threats to the integrity of Europe.

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A cohesive West to negotiate peace

It is clear that the desire for “strategic autonomy” touted by Macron for a Europe finally emancipated from the United States had to reassure Xi Jinping’s China, so that it set itself the common goal of put pressure on Putin to end the war in Ukraine. But at what price, and with what results? The news reports following Macron’s visit to China reported the news of yet another show of force on Taiwan and Xi’s piqued reactions to theendorsement in favor of the island expressed by the president of the European Commission von der Leyen: “Taiwan is the fulcrum of China’s fundamental interests. Anyone who makes a fuss about a Chinese issue will never agree with the Chinese government and people.”

Xi has given no signs of wanting to discuss the Ukrainian question again beyond the peace proposal based on the controversial 12 points, neither with Putin nor with Zelensky. Putinfor his part, reiterated a not without appeal to the mediation of Parisnot even to hypothesize a truce for the Orthodox Easter and Kremlin spokesman Peskov specified that Paris cannot claim any mediation role because it is “indirectly and directly involved in the ongoing conflict and sided with Ukraine”.

As advised by his own diplomats from the Elysée, Macron should work for a less divided West, unless he wants to renounce those universal values ​​of the “citizen” who yearns for freedom handed down to the world by the French Revolution. In this scenario, where Europe still does not converge on some fundamental choicesItaly could now play a pivotal role in relaunching – also recovering the lost Macron – a new European leadership, convinced of the values ​​of Euro-Atlanticism and therefore capable of negotiating peace thanks to the strength of a more cohesive West.

Copertina EPA/Ng Han Guan / POOL’s photo

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