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Macron’s China Trip

A Foreign Policy magazine newsletter reports on criticism of Macron’s China trip. It says:

Some allies have blasted French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to China last week as a political blunder in which Macron—currently unpopular back home—was feted by his autocratic hosts. In one photo, Chinese state media framed Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as supplicants sitting at a round table before a powerful Xi.

Macron’s ostensible goal in Beijing was to encourage Xi to pressure Russia on its war in Ukraine, but the trip achieved nothing on that front. A month after Xi said he would call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, that hasn’t materialized. Macron followed up his visit with a somewhat controversial interview in Politico in which he tried to put distance between France and the United States, especially on the issue of Taiwan.

It’s true that Europe is somewhat split on China, although European attitudes have hardened in the last two years. A charitable reading of Macron’s position is that he is maintaining French autonomy in a world where the United States is not a reliable ally, given the possibility of an increasingly isolationist Republican Party returning to power.

The Economist wrote an even more scathing article about Macron’s trip, saying he had made two major mistakes. First, he did not follow the US line of criticism of China., trying to set out an independent European position Secondly, he did not maintain the unified Western line of support for Taiwan. It said:

Mr Macron’s first error was to further China’s ambition to divide Europeans and peel Europe from America. The choreography of the trip contributed to both. He had hoped to display European unity, insisting to the Chinese that he bring with him Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission. But that idea collapsed under the weight of Chinese protocol and the doveish Mr Macron’s desire to spend hours tête-à-tête with Mr Xi. Mrs von der Leyen, who arrived after making a hawkish speech, got an hour or so in their company.

The second error was to undermine allied support for Taiwan. Diplomacy alone will not lower the risk of war. The West also needs to bolster deterrence, without provoking the very conflict it seeks to avoid. France, with bases in the Indo-Pacific, contributes more militarily to such efforts than any other European Union power. This weekend, amid China’s drills, it sailed a frigate through the Taiwan Strait. That is to be commended. But what could have been a display of allied unity and resolve was undermined by Mr Macron’s suggestion that Taiwan is not Europe’s problem.

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