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REVISED AND UPDATED (April 13, 2023)
1) Keith Bradsher (Shanghau) and David Pierson (Singapore), “Macron Wraps Up China Visit, but Little Progress Seen on War; Russia’s war in Ukraine figured little in statements after meetings between President Emmanuel Macron of France and China’s leader, Xi Jinping,” New York Times, April 7, 2023 (2:48 p.m. ET);
2) “Emmanuel Macron et Ursula von der Leyen en Chine : un dialogue difficile mais utile; La visite du chef de l’Etat, accompagné par la présidente de la Commission européenne, ne s’est pas soldée par des résultats concrets. Mais il fallait réengager la relation avec Pékin, et le faire dans un cadre européen était important,” Le Monde, le 08 avril 2023 (modifié le 08 avril 2023 à 11h00);
3) “Emmanuel Macron’s blunder over Taiwan; The French leader has made a dangerous situation worse,” The Evonomist, April 12, 2023;
4) Christoph Giesen, (Peking), “Wer Taiwan so abtut, ist naiv oder ein Populist. Oder beides; Als »hirntot« hat Emmanuel Macron die Nato einmal bezeichnet. Das war vor dem Krieg in der Ukraine und ein Fehler. Nun bandelt Frankreichs Präsident mit China an. Schamlos, ohne Strategie – und ohne Rücksicht auf die Verbündeten (Kommentar),” Der Spiegel, den 11. April 2023 (16.23 Uhr);
French President Emmanuel Macron, accompanied by EU Comisiion President Ursula van der Leyen, recently concluded a three -day visit to Beijing and meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping. A joint communique issued by France and China included two noteworthy statements.
The first represents a significant achievement. The communique stated;
Both parties support all efforts to restore peace in Ukraine on the basis of international law and the purposes and principles of the charter of the United Nations.
Readers of The Trenchant Observer and rhe Trenchant Observations newsletter will instantly recognize the significance of this statement, which essentially endorses the thrust of the February 23, 2023 General Assembly Resolution which was entitled “Principles of the Charter of the United Nations underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine”. The resolution was adopted 141-7, with 35 abstentions, though China was one of the countries which abstained in the vote.
This statement should be cited in every joint communique with China, by any country.
Bradson and Pierson also report,
Mr. Xi also said he was willing to speak with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine when “conditions and time are right,”
This is an important statement, despite its ambiguity. It can be leveraged into pressure on Xi to meet with Zelensky, preferably in Ukraine.
Macron has been strongly criticized for his efforts to play a significant mediating role in bringing the war to an end. At times, he has undercut the unity of the West.
This time, however, he wisely was accompanied by EU President Ursula van der Leyen, which was intended to serve as reassurance he was not breaking ranks with the West. In the event, however, Macron acquiesced in Chinese protocol plans which effectively cut her out of the days of meetings with Xi, limiting her to one hour of time with Xi.
Macron’s self-aggrandizement destroyed whatever plans there might have been to show a united EU front. The vainglorious French President revived his idea from 2017 about the need for European “strategic autonomy”, undercutting Western unity by arguing that Europe should not blindly follow the U.S. lead on foreign policy toward China.
Worse than that, his statements suggested that the American problem with China over Taiwan was not necessarily Europe’s problem.
Disastrously, he left the impression that if China invaded Taiwan, France and Europe might not join the U.S. in opposing and resisting tgat action.
Macron would like to lead Europe in taking an autonomous strategic position vis-à-vis the United States. The problem is no one trusts Emmanuel Macron, and few European countries share his dangerous illusion that Europe should be strategically autonomous from the United States.
Stanford professor and former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul offered perhaps the most succinct rebuttal of Macron’s argument for European strategic autonomy. Tweeted McFaul:
To reduce your “dependence” on the US, President Macron, spend more on defense! And provide more military assistance to Ukraine, a European country.
We all hailed Emmanuel Macron’s victory in 2022 over Marine LePen in the 2022 presidential race.
Since then, however, he has lost domestic support, pushing through a hugely unpopular pension reform law without approval by the National Assembly–using a special provision in the Constitution to achieve that result.
His government is in a shambles at home, and after his disastrous performance in Beijing, his diplomatic reputation is in tatters.
Justifiably, no one trusts Macron not to undercut European and Atlantic solidarity in pursuit of his vainglorious goal of France (and Emmanuel Macron) leading tbe EU.
No one trusts him. No one will follow him.
Nonetheless, France has an important role to play in deterring China and maintaining peace and security in the Pacific.
An argument could be made for France trying to take a softer approach to China than the current approach of the U.S. Traveling with Ursula van der Leyen was a good idea.
Unfortunately, Macron botched it.
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