The French President, Emmanuel Macron, in an interview with reporters, said, "The question Europeans need to answer . . . is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan?" Answering his query, he said, "No."
That is probably the only thing the President has gotten right in the past few weeks. Stunned yet stubborn in the face of mass, violent protests on the streets of Paris against raising the retirement age, the French leader was probably trying to deflect attention from the situation at home by drawing attention to another potential crisis on the other side of the world.
The point is, accelerating or aggravating the Taiwan crisis is not in anyone's interest – not just Europe's. The Ukraine War, now in its second year, continues to bleed the world economy. The soaring energy prices, food shortages, and heightened tensions are reverberating across the globe.
Cozying up to President Xi Jinping in his pursuit of a "global strategic partnership with China" and striving to secure favorable trade and energy deals in the "multipolar world," President Macaron committed a costly blunder. He fractured the united front the West had consistently presented to Beijing.
The West's united opposition to a forced change in Taiwan's status is a crucial deterrent that Beijing cannot discount. China has been weaning away countries from Taipei and isolating the island to impose its "One China" policy. Security treaties and organizations like NATO have acted as effective deterrents in maintaining peace.
The French President must be aware that the new order proposed by President Xi is just a rejig. The only difference is China wants to be or plans to be one of the "poles." Under Beijing's umbrella, autocrats and authoritarian regimes are aligning to form an axis that threatens the democratic world. President Macaron needlessly jeopardizes decades of friendship and allegiance in his efforts to woo the emerging superpower.
While it may seem desirable to remain nonaligned, the fact remains that France is a member of the EU. While a sovereign nation, Paris is a member of an alliance that has been resisting the invasion of an independent country.
It would do well to remember that not coming to the aid of a democratic country when threatened in the name of neutrality only eggs on aggressors and autocrats. It cannot be ignored that American armory, bullets, and intel keep the Russian troops from capturing Ukraine and possibly marching into other erstwhile Soviet nations. Former President Trump, disapproving of Macron’s behavior, recently expressed his surprise: “Macron, who is a friend of mine, is over with China, kissing his ass, okay, in China. I said, France is now going to China?”
Many Americans also share Trump’s sentiment and perceive Macron's behavior as either disappointing or a betrayal, particularly given that the United States has long viewed France as an ally or friend.
For example, a recent TIPP Poll shows that nearly 80% of Americans have a favorable view of the United States' relationship with France, with 57% considering France as an ally and 22% as friendly but not an ally. On the other hand, only 20% of Americans view the U.S.-China relationship favorably, with just 7% regarding China as an ally and 13% as a friend but not an ally. The majority of Americans, 66%, view the U.S.-China relationship negatively, with 31% considering it unfriendly and 35% perceiving China as an enemy.
More Americans have confidence in French President Emmanuel Macron's ability to make the right decisions in international affairs (40%) than in Chinese President Xi Jinping (15%). 63% of Americans have no confidence in Xi Jinping's decision-making, compared to 29% for Macron.
With his recent comments, President Macron has played into the hands of the Chinese President, who is busy shoring up support for his aggressive agenda. Though the French government walked back the President’s off-the-cuff remarks, Beijing will likely do its utmost to exploit the crack that has become apparent.
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