patten153_LUDOVIC MARINAFP via Getty Images_macronchina Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

Macron in China

French President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial comments during his recent visit to China gave the impression that Europe is divided on Taiwan and that European countries would hesitate to support the island in the event of a Chinese invasion. Worse, they ignored the fundamental difference between China and the United States.

LONDON – The Communist Party of China has a way of flattering foreign leaders into supporting its policies, or at least remaining mum about them. This certainly seemed to be China’s goal when it rolled out the red carpet for French President Emmanuel Macron in early April. Even Macron himself seemed slightly embarrassed by the pageantry.

Macron’s China trip has been widely derided in the West. Moreover, the statements he made during and after the visit about the relationship between France, the European Union, and China, and about Europe’s relationship with the United States and Taiwan, seemed to support the criticism that he lacks the determination required of a leader of a prominent liberal democracy at a time of rising authoritarianism.

Macron’s remark that Europe must not become a “vassal” of the US in its escalating rivalry with China has drawn criticism from politicians and commentators on both sides of the Atlantic. His divisive remarks seemed to evoke a Gaullist vision of France’s role in the world that feels more than a little outdated in the twenty-first century. Even Hubert Védrine, the foreign minister under President Jacques Chirac and a Macron supporter, acknowledged that France’s economy has “weakened too much” for it to reprise the leading global role that it played during Charles de Gaulle’s time.

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.