Did Macron succeed in China?

Macron travelled to Beijing with the objective of creating more solid and balanced trade relations between France and China. Observers believe the trip was also meant to cement the French leader's role as the de facto representative of the EU. Europe's media discuss whether he has achieved these goals.

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Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

France taking the lead

Europe should appreciate Macron's desire to develop good relations with China, Il Sole 24 Ore believes:

“The French president's international policies are filling the geopolitical vacuum left by Germany, Britain and the US. ... Within just a few months France has regained its stability, its will to reform and political flair, although it still lacks an overarching strategy. ... France's hyperactivity frequently meets with reluctance on the part of its European partners, including Italy. Nevertheless it is simply the logical consequence of the promises Macron made regarding Europe in his election campaign. ... Although no one has tasked him with being the EU's spokesman, at this moment Macron is the only one with a halfway reasonable integration model.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Macron can't do it all on his own

Macron performed well but his visit has exposed Europe's shortcomings, Handelsblatt writes:

“Macron is right in saying that Europe continually lets itself be divided. ... China is robustly implementing its strategy and its political leadership. Europe, for its part, has neither a strategy nor a leadership. Some people in Germany and France still believe that it's better that way. They'll soon be proved wrong. If we continue like this for a few more years we'll lose first our technological, then our economic, and finally our political sovereignty. And it won't be Macron's fault.”

Le Monde (FR) /

No guarantee that China will open its market

Macron is right to call for more reciprocity in economic relations between Europe and China, Le Monde writes in praise:

“In their hunger to invest in Europe the Chinese like to target sensitive sectors, especially when they hold the promise of technology transfers. As an exceptionally open continent, Europe has tolerated this plundering for too long. ... Brussels is now in fact trying to protect Europe's strategic interests in the face of foreign investment. ... President Xi Jinping has been careful not to give promises of reciprocity: the future will show if Macron's diplomatic push has any impact in this area. China knows full well how to protect its markets and select its foreign investments judiciously. The Europeans, by contrast, still have a lot to learn on that score.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

An effective charm offensive

France's president delivered a convincing performance in China with his youthful charm, Diário de Notícias comments:

“Macron travelled to China with ambitious plans to expand trade and secure investments for France. It's clear that it's not easy to achieve a balanced relationship with a country that is about to rise to the status of the world's leading power. ... Macron tried to bring home a number of contracts and spoke little of political issues, not to mention human rights. The French president's youth and alternative style clearly made a good impression in China and will be capitalised on in the future, particularly if Europe's inability to speak to Beijing with one voice persists.”

Les Echos (FR) /

The Chinese giant and the French dwarf

One should not expect miracles from Macron's visit to China, Les Echos warns:

“[President] Xi Jinping popularised the slogan 'the Chinese dream'. And China is also a dream for France: that of a gigantic market for French companies and key partnerships. ... This is not the first state visit during which huge contracts and strategic accords have been announced. ... How many nuclear power plants could France have sold to China if all the promises made in the past had been realised? In China, which could become the world's leading economic power tomorrow - at least as far as its GDP is concerned - France with its 1.5 percent market share is a dwarf in terms of trade. ... And Macron's visit will hardly be able to correct our strongly negative balance of trade.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Macron focussing on partnership

Macron wants to convince the Asian giant to commit to proper collaboration, Il Sole 24 Ore believes:

“Reciprocity - that's the magic formula that defines Emmanuel Macron's visit to China. It's no mere coincidence that Macron's first stop on his tour was the ancient imperial city of Xi'an, the starting point of the historic Silk Road. ... The New Silk Road project and the long term strategy it is based on demand a new balance between Europe and China. ... The focus here is on geopolitics. Because the New Silk Road is an instrument through which Beijing can expand its influence over a huge area (the six corridors and the maritime route encompass 65 countries). To do this it will use diplomatic methods that, as has always been the case, lack transparency - which is a considerable source of concern for Western governments.”