French President Emmanuel Macron threw the status quo into disarray last week during his visit to China, in which he was greeted to fanfare by his Chinese counterparts, rarely presented to a Western leader.
During his trip, President Macron met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and made statements declaring his wish for Europe to be an essential neutral party between the two superpowers, specifically not getting involved in the fight over Taiwan. These comments were met with anger and confusion by many Western politicians, leading to accusations of pandering and even betrayal.
Emphasizing his desire for “strategic autonomy” for Europe, Macron declared a desire to remain neutral in the power struggle between the United States and the Chinese, particularly over the issue of Taiwan. Macron argued that it is not in Europe’s interest to become involved in a Pacific conflict with their largest trading partners, saying, “The worst thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cues from the US agenda and a Chinese overreaction.”
Macron also made comments suggesting China can “reason” with Russia over the war in Ukraine. In his opening remarks on Thursday, Macron said Russia had “put an end to decades of peace in Europe” and that finding peace is “an important issue for China, as much as it is for France and for Europe.”
Speaking to journalists on his flight back to Paris, Macron said Europe often “gets caught up in crises that are not ours, which prevents it from building its strategic autonomy.” He emphasized a European desire to create a “third superpower” too.
While Macron’s stated goal was neutrality, many in the West, particularly in the United States, viewed his comments as being pro-China. In an interview with Fox News, former President Donald Trump accused Macron of pandering to the Chinese, saying, “You got this crazy world is blowing up and the United States has absolutely no say. And Macron, who’s a friend of mine, is over with China kissing his ass.”
Republican Senator Ted Cruz took to Twitter to criticize the Biden administration over it’s foreign policy, calling Macron’s comments “stunning”, while referring to him as being “ass-kissed” and “left-wing”.
“The Chinese Communist Party is the most significant challenge to Western society, our economic security, and our way of life… France must be clear-eyed about this threat,” noted Republican Todd Young, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. House Select Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher told Fox News that Macron’s statements “were embarrassing, they were disgraceful… and very geopolitically naïve.”
Speaking at a press conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, President Macron stood by his comments and position of neutrality, saying, “Being an ally does not mean being a vassal… [nor does it] mean that we don’t have the right to think for ourselves.”
Macron said French policy on Taiwan “has not changed” despite the controversy sparked by remarks in China about Europe’s “strategic autonomy.”
“France is for the status quo in Taiwan” and a “peaceful resolution to the situation,” he added.
The White House downplayed the comments, saying, “We’ll let the Élysée speak for President Macron’s comments—we’re focused on the terrific collaboration and coordination that we have with France as an ally and a friend.”
It should be noted that historically, France has been the United States’ oldest and most loyal ally.