Macron Seems To Have Lost His Mind!

Norbert Röttgen

17 de Abril de 2023, 07:00

Norbert Röttgen, CDU spokesman in the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee, analyses President Macron's recent visit to China for Agenda Pública
Not that long ago, in 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that Europe’s era of naivety vis-a-vis China was over. Unfortunately, he has forcefully proven himself wrong during his recent state visit to China. The era of naivety – in the past most ardently represented by Germany – is still in full swing. Only this time around it is Macron shocking with unbelievably naive and irresponsible statements on China that make you wonder whether he has lost his mind.

In only three days the French President has managed to blunder away a good deal of his international standing. He has turned his trip to China into a PR coup for Xi Jinping and a foreign policy disaster for Europe. With his obsession for European sovereignty, which Macron defines in demarcation rather than partnership with the USA, he has instigated a transatlantic rift and created serious doubts amongst our partners, not only in Washington but also in the Asia-Pacific, regarding Europe’s reliability.

Without one recognizable reason or receiving anything in return, Macron offered Xi Jinping one rhetorical gift after another. He said word for word what Xi wanted to hear, calling for more distance towards the United States and emphasizing partnership with China rather than competition and systemic rivalry.

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Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that we cannot or should not cooperate with China on issues where European and Chinese interests align. Tackling climate change for example will not be possible otherwise. But we should equally stress that Europe is not a neutral bystander in China’s attempt to project its power globally and to change the international order in accordance with its own interests. A world order shaped by Xi Jinping is not what Europe wants.

I believe that a European stance does not require de-coupling. Instead, it is much more a matter of de-risking. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen rightly said that most trade with China is not problematic. De-risking means that we need to systematically reduce dependencies from China that make us vulnerable to Chinese blackmail and pressure. To achieve this goal, above all others, Germany needs to do its homework.

But Macron did not only advocate for demarcation from the United States and rapprochement with China. Most outrageous were his comments on Taiwan. He explicitly warned that Europe must not be dragged by the Americans into a conflict between the United States and China, if the latter were to attack Taiwan. According to him, Taiwan is none of our business.

Just to be clear: It is not the United States that threatens China. It is China which wants to “reunite” with Taiwan and threatens to do so by military means.

If Macron really believes that China’s global power ambitions – among which Taiwan represents an important milestone – have nothing to do with us Europeans, that would not only be naive, but also dangerous. A conflict between the United States and China, instigated by a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, would have the most far-reaching geopolitical consequences imaginable. They would be impossible for Europe to ignore. Hence, our primary goal must be to prevent such a conflict from happening. But the more Xi Jinping believes that Europe would remain neutral, the more likely an attack on Taiwan becomes. Against that backdrop Macron’s comments, issued while China engaged in extensive military drills around Taiwan, were reckless and irresponsible. They did not have a deterring but rather a motivating effect on Xi.

More so, Macron has managed to once again divide Europe with his statements, making it harder to find common ground on China in order to formulate a joint China strategy.

He has further alienated our most important ally, the United States, that is currently doing more than all European powers together in militarily supporting Ukraine and thus defending Europe. Not France and Macron, but the United States and Biden have once again stepped up as Europe’s most important security provider. They did so despite the fact, that it is our neighbourhood and our European peace order which is under attack by Russia. This is the same Russia China is partnering with.

I am very much in favour of a stronger and more independent Europe. And the United States would equally not complain. In fact, they have been asking us Europeans for years to do more for our own security. Everyone, including President Macron, is welcome to start acting on behalf of this goal. Unfortunately, Macron has so far shown even less initiative in supporting Ukraine than German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Accordingly, Macron’s chat about European sovereignty has little to nothing to do with the reality on the ground in EuropeWe are currently not capable of defending ourselves without the support of the United States. That is simply a matter of fact. In addition, some European countries, most notably Germany, have economically become so overinvested in the Chinese market that our ability to act against China is seriously impaired.

This should lead to only one conclusion, and it is puzzling how Macron managed to get this so fundamentally wrong: While he advocates for more trade and investment, we need to do the exact opposite and reduce our economic dependencies from China. If China one day invades Taiwan, we must be in a position in which we can issue heavy economic sanctions and withstand Chinese countersanctions. Those might still be painful but won’t break our neck if we start to economically diversify now. There really is only one way forward and it is not Macron’s approach which would lead Europe into a geopolitical dead end.

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