West News Wire: French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview on his flight home from a three-day state visit to China that Europe must lessen its reliance on the United States in order to avoid being drawn into a dispute between China and the United States over Taiwan.
After spending about six hours with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit, Macron spoke with two French journalists, highlighting his favorite theory of “strategic autonomy” for Europe, likely led by France, to become a “third superpower.”
During a flight on COTAM Unité, France’s Air Force One, he declared that “the great risk” that Europe has is that it “gets caught up in crises that are not ours, which prevents it from building its strategic autonomy.”
Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party have enthusiastically endorsed Macron’s concept of strategic autonomy and Chinese officials constantly refer to it in their dealings with European countries. Party leaders and theorists in Beijing are convinced the West is in decline and China is on the ascendant and that weakening the transatlantic relationship will help accelerate this trend.
“The paradox would be that, overcome with panic, we believe we are just America’s followers,” Macron said in the interview. “The question Europeans need to answer … is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan? No. The worse thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction,” he said.
Just hours after his flight left Guangzhou headed back to Paris, China launched large military exercises around the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its territory but the U.S. has promised to arm and defend.
Those exercises were a response to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen’s 10-day diplomatic tour of Central American countries that included a meeting with Republican U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy while she transited in California. People familiar with Macron’s thinking said he was happy Beijing had at least waited until he was out of Chinese airspace before launching the simulated “Taiwan encirclement” exercise.
Beijing has repeatedly threatened to invade in recent years and has a policy of isolating the democratic island by forcing other countries to recognize it as part of “one China.”
Macron and Xi discussed Taiwan “intensely,” according to French officials accompanying the president, who appears to have taken a more conciliatory approach than the U.S. or even the European Union.
“Stability in the Taiwan Strait is of paramount importance,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who accompanied Macron for part of his visit, said she told Xi during their meeting in Beijing last Thursday. “The threat [of] the use of force to change the status quo is unacceptable.”
Xi responded by saying anyone who thought they could influence Beijing on Taiwan was deluded.
Macron appears to agree with that assessment.
“Europeans cannot resolve the crisis in Ukraine; how can we credibly say on Taiwan, ‘watch out, if you do something wrong we will be there’? If you really want to increase tensions that’s the way to do it,” he said.
“Europe is more willing to accept a world in which China becomes a regional hegemon,” said Yanmei Xie, a geopolitics analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics. “Some of its leaders even believe such a world order may be more advantageous to Europe.”
Russia, China, Iran and other countries have been hit by U.S. sanctions in recent years that are based on denying access to the dominant dollar-denominated global financial system. Some in Europe have complained about “weaponization” of the dollar by Washington, which forces European companies to give up business and cut ties with third countries or face crippling secondary sanctions.
In a hoodie bearing the words “French Tech” over the breast, Macron declared that Europe has already “won the ideological battle on strategic autonomy” while seated in the stateroom of his A330 aircraft.
He avoided discussing the issue of continuous American security assurances for the Continent, which is currently engaged in the first significant land conflict in Europe since World War II and mainly depends on American defense help.
France is in a unique position militarily as the only nuclear power in the EU and one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. However, compared to many other nations, it has made a far smaller contribution to the Ukrainian defense against Russian invasion.