benami201_JACQUES WITTPOOLAFP via Getty Images_macron china JACQUES WITT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Macron’s Gaullist Foreign Policy

While French President Emmanuel Macron shares the US desire to contain China, he refuses to view China’s systemic rivalry with the West in zero-sum terms. Cooperation with the US is essential, but so is more open-minded diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific, including toward China.

TEL AVIV – Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year galvanized the West against not only the Kremlin, but also other rivals, especially an increasingly assertive China. But last month, French President Emmanuel Macron headed to Beijing, where he declared that, on sensitive matters like Taiwan, Europe should not simply follow America’s lead. The United States was not pleased, but nor should it have been surprised.

Like most French politicians – from Marine Le Pen on the far right to Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the far left – Macron is a Gaullist. Theirs is a shared sensibility, rather than a clearly defined ideology. Nor is it simply French anti-Americanism, as many believe. Instead, it is best described as a national sentiment, not unlike Peronism in Argentina, reflecting the “spiritual” legacy of General Charles de Gaulle.

That legacy is captured by Winston Churchill’s description of the general: when De Gaulle fled to London in June 1940, a few days after France fell to Nazi Germany, Churchill declared that he carried with him “the honor of France.” It is also exemplified by De Gaulle’s insistence – to the frustration of his Anglo-American benefactors – that France be treated as an equal ally.

To continue reading, register now.

Subscribe now for unlimited access to everything PS has to offer.


As a registered user, you can enjoy more PS content every month – for free.