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Macron Incites Outrage By Stating Europe Should Not Be A “Vassal” In The US-China Conflict.

Emmanuel Macron has faced a barrage of criticism after declaring that Europe should not become a “vassal” and should not be involved in tension between the superpower US and the dragon country China over Taiwan. The French president made the statements in an interview aboard his plane during a 3-day visit to China when he was greeted on the red carpet by China’s president, Xi Jinping, a display of grandeur that disturbed some European China spectators.

Macron told reporters from Les Echos and Politico that Europe, together with the United States and China, should be a third power in the international order. 

While Macron’s words reiterated Europe’s long-term pursuit of “strategic autonomy,” namely reducing military and economic reliance, his comments on Taiwan flared anger and anxiety on both sides of the Atlantic. According to Les Echos, Macron stated that Europeans are not interested in accelerating the resolution of the Taiwan subject. The worst of all would be to believe that Europeans must be followers in this matter, adapting to American rhythms and Chinese hypersensitivity.

He noted that it would be a “trap for Europe,” now that it has marked its presence to be greater sovereignty after the Covid outbreak, to become entangled in situations “that are not theirs.” Suppose the conflict between the American and Chinese duopolies escalates. In that scenario, Europe will lack the time and resources to fund its strategic autonomy, and it will become vassals. Instead, they may become the third pole in the global order if they had a few years to build this.

Macron Incites Outrage By Stating Europe Should Not Be A "Vassal" In The US-China Conflict.

Macron stated that the necessity for Europe’s “strategic autonomy” is commonly recognised and that there has never been an acceleration of European strength than in recent years. Macron set the limelight on the threats to Europe posed by the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a $369 billion (£300 billion) green subsidy package, and reliance on the currency. He said that Europe moved quickly to develop “the European IRA,” citing efforts to expand domestic green technology and raw material production.

And he stated that his discussions with Xi had been beneficial in tackling China’s “complacency revolving around Russia.” Macron stated that the talks with China aimed to “consolidate similar approaches” to the Ukrainian conflict.

According to Politico, behaving as the state of granting the interview, the Élysée presidential palace confirmed Macron‘s statements before they were published and insisted on removing sections in which Macron spoke “even more frankly” about Taiwan and Europe’s strategic autonomy.

In a social media post referencing the Politico interview, US Republican Senator Marco Rubio stated that if Macron spoke for all of Europe, the US should think about focusing its foreign policy on controlling China and leaving Europe to manage the Ukraine conflict.

Rubio, who lost the Republican presidential nomination to controversial former president Donald Trump in 2016, stated that while he backed American help to Ukraine, Europe must reconsider its stance on Taiwan. Perhaps they could just comment that the US will focus on Taiwan and the risks that China brings while they tackle Ukraine and Europe. Using the Politico disclaimer, Rubio highlighted Macron uttered “worse” things before the Élysée revisions.

Macron Incites Outrage By Stating Europe Should Not Be A "Vassal" In The US-China Conflict.

According to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, the French president’s “unhelpful words” would impair US and Japanese deterrence against China in the western Pacific while encouraging US legislators who sought to lessen US responsibilities in Europe. If President Biden is awake, the journal added, he should contact Mr Macron and ask if he’s trying to re-elect Donald Trump. One Lawmaker emphasised that the French president was not speaking for the EU. “Macron says ‘Europe should’ and ‘Europeans,’ but he is speaking for France, not Europe.”

It’s relatively strange to emphasise strategic autonomy now, in April 2023, since the world has changed in the earlier 14 months,” the source said, implying that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has called into suspicion Europe’s potential to become a third force, like what Macron wants.

According to Norbert Röttgen, a German centre-right Politician and former chair of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, Macron’s trip to China was a PR win for Xi and a foreign policy disaster for Europe.  “He is separating himself rapidly in Europe with his concept of sovereignty, which he portrays to be the demarcation rather than collaboration with the United States.

MEP Reinhard Butiköfer, who leads the European Parliament’s China mission, called Macron’s visit to China a “total disaster.” The German Green MEP, who China has sanctioned for his position on human rights in Xinjiang, called Macron’s “pipe fantasy” of the EU becoming a “third superpower” “irrational.” He said that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had illustrated “a better approach.”

Von der Leyen recently stated that the EU needs to reconsider its relationship with a Chinese government that has increased “disinformation and economic and commercial coercion.”

While Macron was hailed in Brussels for inviting Von der Leyen to accompany him to Beijing, the reality of the visit revealed China’s efforts to divide and rule. When China threw out the red carpet for Macron with a state dinner and military parade, Von der Leyen received a cold greeting and was barred from participating in the pageantry.

Macron Incites Outrage By Stating Europe Should Not Be A "Vassal" In The US-China Conflict.

Advocates of Macron argued the conversation encountered little new about him or French foreign policy since Charles de Gaulle. Former French ambassador to Washington and the United Nations, Mr Gérard Araud, said Macron has initiated a significant debate at a time when “the temptation arises to consolidate into a ‘western bloc’ under American guidance promised to be on the side of ‘good,'” adding that “giving in to this would be a mistake.”

The row is reminiscent of controversies, like when Macron declared in 2019 that Nato was experiencing “brain death” or infuriated central and eastern European allies last year by saying Russia would need security guarantees when it came time to negotiate a peace treaty with Ukraine.


Analysts assert that the timing of Macron’s words is not acceptable. It was a mistake for him to make these statements when Chinese military drills ringed Taiwan immediately after his official visit to China. That will be interpreted as the dragon’s appeasement and a medium to exaggerate Chinese aggressiveness. Analysts said Macron’s interview could be interpreted to be a parting gift to Xi, “another futile attempt (after Putin) to sweet-talk an authoritarian,” and that the French president may have been trying to emulate De Gaulle to strengthen his poll numbers in France. It is obviously like Macron being Macron, looking forward innovatively but not evaluating the immediate political impact of his statements.

Priyanka Chakraborty
Priyanka Chakraborty
Chakraborty is a Digital Journalist at Inventiva who drafts content on current social topics. Her forte is documenting opinionated content based on data, facts, and numbers while adhering to media ethics, which go beyond simply crafting news headlines. Her core intent in writing such content is that every word her viewers read should give meaningful insights to their time spent on the articles.


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