French President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to China and a meeting with the local leader Xi Jinping / photo. PAP / EPA. The French president – after being received with exceptional honors by Xi Jinping (unlike the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen who accompanied him) – on his way back from China declared that Europe must resist the pressure to become a “follower of America” . Emmanuel Macron stated that the “great risk” facing Europe is that “it becomes embroiled in crises that are not ours, which prevents it from building its strategic autonomy.” “We don’t want to fall into block-versus-block logic,” he stressed. Referring to tensions over Taiwan, the French leader said that Europeans must ask themselves whether “it is in our interest to accelerate the crisis.” In his opinion, it would be a mistake to think that Europeans need to become followers on this issue and follow the agenda of the US, and that Europe needs to reduce its dependence on them and avoid being drawn into a confrontation between China and the US over Taiwan.
In the heat of criticism
Macron’s statement was widely criticized by American and European politicians and the media, pointing to the breakdown of transatlantic solidarity, especially during the ongoing Chinese military maneuvers around Taiwan, which were in response to the meeting between the president of the island and the American speaker of the House of Representatives. The meeting was controversial because the US does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan. A large part of the French media and international policy experts said that the French leader aroused anxiety among Western allies. Mike Gallagher, chairman of the House of Representatives committee on the Chinese Communist Party, called Macron’s statements “embarrassing, disgraceful and geopolitically naive.” Another influential Republican on Chinese issues, Chris Smith, said that Macron’s claims “look like a betrayal of democratic Taiwan, so the United States should reassess its position on France.” This position was later softened by an official statement from the US State Department.
The business got done
Many commentators highlight the difficult situation of Macron struggling with the loss of support due to protests over the unpopular pension reform. France’s activity on the international arena and its superpower rhetoric would be a tool to regain confidence in the country, as well as to increase the influence of French business. There is probably a lot of truth in this, but it seems that there is something more behind it – the desire to emphasize the subjectivity of France (and of the European Union in the French vision of the continent) in global politics, whose global position is being marginalized during the growing Sino-American rivalry . Charles de Gaulle took similar actions in the 1960s, leaving the NATO military structures and wanting to show French subjectivity. During Macron’s visit to Beijing, French business did its job. Confirmed, among others increasing access to the Chinese market for French pork; and the Chinese ordering 160 Airbus aircraft. Agreements on cooperation between Chinese and French companies were also signed, e.g. in the field of civil nuclear energy, wind energy, agriculture, transport and the cosmetics market. China and France also agreed to “increase contacts on strategic issues, with particular emphasis on dialogue between the Southern Theater of Operations of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (responsible for the South China Sea) and the command of the French Forces in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Marginalization of Europe?
The Chinese-American rivalry and the strengthening of the US position in the context of the war in Ukraine have contributed to the decline in the position of the so-called old EU. It is the Old Continent that bears the greater economic costs as a result of this conflict, especially when the Americans press for limiting cooperation with China. For countries such as France and Germany, closing the expansion of their companies on the Chinese market means a serious limitation of opportunities. Stopping the supply of cheap raw materials from Russia had its impact, especially for the German economy. Poland does not have such dilemmas, because we do not have numerous global companies and globally influential industry that would prove our superpower position. We are now more important as a sub-supplier of the German industry, which unfortunately does not improve our position. We were also, fortunately, not as dependent on Russia as Germany. Tensions in transatlantic relations are also caused by the huge support by the US of its own “green industry” under the so-called the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The Americans plan to invest over USD 400 billion in companies from the green energy and electromobility sector, which may affect the European industry and its competitiveness. This may be the beginning of the flight of European business overseas. Hence, Emmanuel Macron’s actions can be assessed as a desire to haggle with the Americans. Tensions also apply to technology. Recently, the French government banned 2.5 million of its officials (in the face of widespread restrictions on access to TikTok on government devices) from installing Chinese apps, but also added US apps to the ban. He stated that none of them ensure an adequate level of cybersecurity and data protection.
The situation of widespread criticism of the French president was taken advantage of by Mateusz Morawiecki during his visit to the USA, where he sought to accelerate the delivery of American equipment to Poland and to increase American investments in the military area.
– Some European leaders also went to Beijing. They short-sightedly look at China, wanting to sell products there, while incurring great geopolitical costs, increasing rather than reducing our dependence on China, not understanding the concept of strategic autonomy, which in this case would de facto mean shooting in your own knee – assessed Macron’s visit to China in Poland Prime Minister. In his opinion, the slogan of European autonomy sounds great, but it means shifting Europe’s center of gravity towards China and breaking the ties connecting it with the US. independent.
– If Ukraine is conquered, the next day China may attack Taiwan – he stressed, which caused an immediate reaction of the Chinese (as always in the most sensitive issue of Taiwan). The Embassy of the PRC in Warsaw called the Polish prime minister “a certain Polish civil servant.” Morawiecki’s statement fully fits into the American narrative, which seamlessly connects the issue of Ukraine and Taiwan (a more important issue for Americans). The prime minister probably calculated his confrontational rhetoric towards China in exchange for specific investments in the Polish army, industry, energy and technology centers on preferential terms. Macron’s rhetorical clash with Morawiecki is an expression of tectonic tensions in global geopolitics and shifting centers of power. The war in Ukraine and the growing US-Chinese rivalry will make them visible. Our geopolitical position has recently increased, so we must learn to use it. The question is, can we?