Macron's Taiwan comments expose muddled China policy
French President Emmanuel Macron's call for Europe to steer clear of a Taiwan conflict -- rooted in France's pride and deep-seated resistance to following America's lead -- has raised questions about where he and Paris really stand on China.
The furor started in early April, during an interview on Macron's flight back from China. Speaking about a hypothetical crisis over Taiwan, he said: "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."
Official readouts of a call last week between Macron and U.S. counterpart Joe Biden also showed a striking difference in attitude. The White House statement said the two had "reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait."
But the French side did not name Taiwan directly, mentioning only the leaders' "determination" to "uphold international law, including the freedom of navigation, throughout the Indo-Pacific."
The controversy comes at a time when unity among democracies is being tested.
"We need to deny the interpretation that France is distancing itself from the U.S. and moving closer to China," French Sen. Olivier Cadic, who represents French citizens living abroad, told Nikkei.
France was among the earliest European countries to come out with an Indo-Pacific strategy. Yet "its policy on China is ill-defined," said Marc Julienne, head of China research at the French Institute of International Relations.
Some observers suspect that Macron is putting economic interests first.
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