In case you missed it, last weekend a person said some things.
The person was French President Emmanuel Macron. The things he said were during a state visit to China and then in an interview on the airplane home. Some of the things he said were published Sunday in Politico.
Europe must reduce its dependency on the United States and avoid getting dragged into a confrontation between China and the U.S. over Taiwan, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview on his plane back from a three-day state visit to China.
Speaking with POLITICO and two French journalists after spending around six hours with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his trip, Macron emphasized his pet theory of “strategic autonomy” for Europe, presumably led by France, to become a “third superpower.”
Hey, his pet theory is just like my pet golden retriever: a real bitch!
America has been doing almost all the heavy lifting on European defense for the better part of a century. America has asked very little in return, and that’s a good thing because America has gotten very little in return. (Sneering condescension is nice, but it doesn’t pay the bills.)
There’s a hot war on Europe’s eastern flank and China is gearing up for war.
America is, once again, doing the heavy lifting on both fronts in defense of its own and Europe’s interests.
America, for example, has so far spent 0.367% of its GDP on support for Ukraine. Macron’s France has spent 0.071% of its GDP—one fifth as much. Germany has spent less than two-thirds as much of its GDP as America has. The only European countries spending close to or more than America relative to their GDP are low population nations like Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Netherlands, all of whom are also spending at least five times as much of their GDP as France. You want to be a super power? Act like one.
He said “the great risk” Europe faces is that it “gets caught up in crises that are not ours, which prevents it from building its strategic autonomy,” while flying from Beijing to Guangzhou, in southern China, aboard COTAM Unité, France’s Air Force One.
By Macron’s logic, America should immediately withdraw all support from Ukraine. After all, why should America get caught up in a crisis that’s not its own? Why shouldn’t America build up some more of that good old-fashioned strategic autonomy Macron is so keen on?
Maybe it’s just a French president shooting off his mouth and it doesn’t mean anything?
Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party have enthusiastically endorsed Macron’s concept of strategic autonomy and Chinese officials constantly refer to it in their dealings with European countries. Party leaders and theorists in Beijing are convinced the West is in decline and China is on the ascendant and that weakening the transatlantic relationship will help accelerate this trend.
Okay, I guess it means something.
That makes it sounds like Macron is actively helping China divide the west. But surely he understands the Europe and America share values that are absolutely antithetical to China, and that the Chinese threat calls for our standing shoulder to shoulder, doesn’t he?
“The paradox would be that, overcome with panic, we believe we are just America’s followers,” Macron said in the interview. “The question Europeans need to answer … is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan? No. 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,” he said.
This is old wine in new bottles: it’s familiar to anyone who followed Euro-American relations during the cold war—or has a teenager in the house.
I’m an adult and I demand to be treated like one! …So let me use the car, and can you front me some gas money? I need my own for beer.
Just hours after his flight left Guangzhou headed back to Paris, China launched large military exercises around the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its territory but the U.S. has promised to arm and defend.
Those exercises were a response to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen’s 10-day diplomatic tour of Central American countries that included a meeting with Republican U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy while she traveled in California. People familiar with Macron’s thinking said he was happy Beijing had at least waited until he was out of Chinese airspace before launching the simulated “Taiwan encirclement” exercise.
That certainly was thoughtful of them: one hopes the people of Taiwan weren’t ungrateful enough not to share Macron’s happiness.
Politico ends the article with a fascinating note:
As is common in France and many other European countries, the French President’s office, known as the Elysée Palace, insisted on checking and “proofreading” all the president’s quotes to be published in this article as a condition of granting the interview. This violates POLITICO’s editorial standards and policy, but we agreed to the terms in order to speak directly with the French president. POLITICO insisted that it cannot deceive its readers and would not publish anything the president did not say. The quotes in this article were all actually said by the president, but some parts of the interview in which the president spoke even more frankly about Taiwan and Europe’s strategic autonomy were cut out by the Elysée.
Liberté, fraternité, egalité, and shut up s’il vous plait.
As a result of all this, Berlingske Tidende ran an article a couple of days ago entitled “Our worst problem is that he’s saying out loud what a lot of Europeans are thinking.”
Macron got next to nothing from Chinese President Xi Jinping when it comes to negotiating peace between Ukraine and Russia.
On the other hand, many French CEOs took home lucrative deals.
And here we are at the core of the problem, because… it appears as though Macron chose (favorable) trade policy rather than siding with the United States in relation to China.
Despite the headline, the article doesn’t offer much evidence that “a lot of Europeans” are on board with Macron’s China gambit. There are certainly some, and a few of them made headlines for having expressed their support for an EU strategy of triangulation between America and China, but the article also cites plenty of Europeans who think it’s dangerous idiocy.
(Which it is.)
Macron and his amen corner are saying “Xi is a man we can do business with.” Anyone with any knowledge of history ought to know how that tends to work out.
Berlingske ran another article on the same theme yesterday, but from a slightly different angle:
Macron’s words send a wave of rage through the United States: “Then you can defend yourselves in the future”
Solveig Gram Jensen, Berlingske.dk, April 12
It opens by citing a typically provocative bit Trumpian bluster, made during the former president’s interview with Tucker Carlson: “Macron, who’s a friend of mine, is over with China kissing [Xi’s] ass in China, okay.”
(That’s the actual Trumpian quote rather than a translation of Berlingske’s Danish rendition.)
The article describes Macron’s stated position again and then asserts that:
Thus, Trump’s interview becomes a warning about the dilemma we Europeans risk facing: Having to choose whether we stand on China’s side or America’s.
It’s not a risk Europe faces: it’s a reality and it’s urgent. Dithering is not an option. And it ought to be one of the easiest choices Europe has ever had to make.
If you completely disregard ideals and values, where we are undoubtedly closer to the United States, both choices will have consequences that are difficult to foresee. But quite roughly, most of European business will lose billions if we have to break with China completely.
Yes, if you completely disregard ideals and values it’s a tough choice.
But if you completely disregard ideals and values, you’re a psychopath.
Don’t let’s be psychopaths.
But don’t even psychopaths have an instinct for self-preservation?
Let’s game this thing out as quickly and succinctly as possible:
China advances on Taiwan. America defends Taiwan. China and America are at war in the Pacific.
China has home court advantage, but Taiwan is a very heavily-defended island. Surely there’ll be a fifth column of CCP sympathizers stirring things up within Taiwan, but America will have the support of Japan, the Philppines, and Australia, among others.
It’ll be a very close-run thing—the body counts on both sides will be overwhelming.
Europe can help the world avoid that scenario by siding unequivocally and emphatically with America right now.
Did we learn nothing from the many wonderful ways in which our splendid diplomacy and soft power failed to deter Putin from invading Ukraine?
(Narrator: “They didn’t learn anything.”)
The article reviews the criticisms of Macron issued by Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, and Ted Cruz, and then concludes:
Emmanuel Macron has not only created serious doubts about where Europe stands in relation to the USA and China.
He has also become a domestic political problem for Joe Biden.
As the Republican-leaning newspaper The Wall Street Journal puts it in its editorial :
“His unhelpful comments will undermine US and Japanese deterrence against China in the Western Pacific, while emboldening US politicians who want to reduce US commitments in Europe to better fight against China.”
Therefore, the newspaper concludes, Biden should call Macron “and ask if he is trying to get Donald Trump re-elected”.
This makes it clear that Trump is perhaps at least indirectly right when he calls Macron “his friend”.
In other words, the real problem isn’t that a wobbly or equivocating Europe will almost guarantee a Pacific war between nuclear superpowers: the problem is that it’s bad for Biden.
Why are bad things always happening to him?
Featured Image: Jacques Witt/AP photo, doctored.