Macron's Taiwan comments: right or reckless?

Emmanuel Macron's statements on the China-Taiwan conflict continue to cause controversy. After his visit to Beijing with Ursula von der Leyen, Macron told the business paper Les Echos that Europe should not behave like a "follower" of the US on the issue of Taiwan. Commentators discuss Macron's calls for Europe to seek greater strategic autonomy, which he repeated in China.

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Le Point (FR) /

An unbridgeable contradiction

Macron's words betray the very essence and values of the EU, Le Point criticises:

“How can the EU justify the constraints it imposes on its members in these circumstances? For example Poland and Hungary, which are regularly called to order for not respecting the Union's principles? If at the same time it shows solidarity with China, which is guilty of genocide against the Uighur population - a position which the French government camp voted unanimously to recognise - and which is on the verge of violating the sovereignty of Taiwan? Is there not an unbridgeable ideological contradiction here?”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

A declaration of political bankruptcy

For Jyllands-Posten the French President's comments show his weakness:

“EU partners must contradict him loudly and clearly: it's time to speak in capital letters within the EU circle, and Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen must once again speak very clearly. The US is the guarantor of Europe's security, not France. Macron's latest move is a declaration of political bankruptcy for him personally, now also in foreign policy. ... Macron risks completely sidelining France. If a choice has to be made between the US and France, the outcome is clear.”

Capital (GR) /

European change of course

The web portal Capital sees a change in the EU's attitude towards the US:

“Europe's strategic autonomy was an essential part of the French perspective on the EU's development from the outset, but it did not find an open ear in Ms Merkel's Germany. Things seem to have changed now, and Germany giving its 'blessing' for the Macron mission in Beijing with the participation of the President of the European Commission and the silence that followed Mr Macron's remarks shows this. The economic war declared on Europe by the US, with its huge programmes for attracting investment, could be a major reason for the European change of course.”

The Times (GB) /

Unrealistic blather

Europe is far from having any kind of strategic autonomy, The Times writes in answer to the French president:

“If Europe has a role in the world, it is that of a jobless teenager asking constantly for more money, a position, one could say, of 'cowering autonomy' or 'strategic apology'. Macron would do better to accept this current role and work quietly on fixing it, rather than poking our allies in the eye while exaggerating our achievements. Until Europe has actually grappled with its crippling dependencies, let's please hear no more talk of 'strategic autonomy'.” (PL) /

Polish relationship with US not ideal

A little more autonomy vis-à-vis Washington would be good for Warsaw, Onet posits:

“A particularly Polish problem is the country's one-dimensional, compulsive policy of giving in to all American demands. Even those where no clear Polish interest is discernible. This is always justified by the need to maintain the alliance with the US. But - and it is a pity that this truism has to be repeated so often - an alliance in which one partner, even if much stronger, gets everything for nothing (unconditional support for the invasion of Iraq, the purchase of key weapons, and the purchase of nuclear technology are just a few examples) becomes a master-vassal relationship.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

A dangerous signal

Macron's words could have drastic consequences for Taiwan, La Libre Belgique predicts:

“In saying that Europeans do not have to 'adapt to the American rhythm and a Chinese overreaction', Macron seems to be blaming the US for the current tensions. And in saying that the Taiwan question should not be on the European agenda, he shows a worrying lack of vision and solidarity. ... Macron's apparent lack of interest in Taiwan's fate sends a very dangerous signal to Xi Jinping, giving him reason to think he has a free hand. This is reminiscent of the dramatic imprudence of the Truman administration, which claimed in January 1950 that it no longer wished to concern itself with East Asia - five months later the Korean War broke out.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

At best a serious mistake

Rzeczpospolita rakes Macron over the coals:

“A mild assessment of the French president's trip to China and the statements he made there would be: he chose the wrong place and the wrong time to undermine America's leadership in defence of the West and democracy. A harsh assessment: Emmanuel Macron is so obsessed with the US that he is willing to back dictatorships that pose a threat to the world in an effort to weaken transatlantic relations. And there's yet another version: the French president is ready to do or say whatever it takes to secure a privileged position for French companies in the huge Chinese market.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Harming his own cause

La Stampa says it was bad timing:

“As so often in domestic and foreign policy, there is some truth in the words of French President Emmanuel Macron, who certainly does not lack clarity, courage and vision. But just as often, the French leader makes mistakes in timing, tactics and policy that not only render his positions worthless but also trigger a vicious circle of criticism and counter-criticism that ultimately becomes detrimental to the European Union he sees himself as championing. The media and political storm that Macron's interview after his visit to China has caused is the most glaring case of this.”

Lost in EUrope (DE) /

Macron is right

What is so wrong with Macron's statements? asks foreign correspondent Eric Bonse in his blog Lost in Europe:

“This is only an issue for those who act as if American and European interests were identical. ... Macron clearly has a point here. ... He is also right in his assessment that Europe must fight for 'strategic autonomy' and become a 'third pole' in the new multipolar world order. What else? ... Giving up the struggle for autonomy now, at the very moment when new players are entering the world stage in the form of China, India, South Africa or Brazil, would be tantamount to abandoning oneself and burying the European project. Macron said nothing else.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

This was not the plan

Jutarnji list is dumbfounded:

“Macron was expected to turn China against Russia, and now China has turned the French president against the US. ... Of course, no form of dependence is good, not even on the US. Nevertheless, it's both naive and harmful to compare dependence on the US with dependence on China, and to suggest that the EU should behave like a sort of non-aligned movement.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Major damage with just a few sentences

Macron's speech was disastrous, the Süddeutsche Zeitung rails:

“Macron's talk of Europe as an autonomous power that must maintain equidistance from America and China was not only not coordinated with the other EU governments, it was an attack on European and transatlantic unity. Macron used the most stupid and dusty Gaullist relic of an argument - that the Europeans must free themselves from the alleged eternal American paternalism. With his interview, the French president has driven a wedge in Europe's relationship with the US and at the same time torn open a rift across Europe. Quite a feat to cause so much damage with just a few sentences.” (PL) /

Parisian anti-Americanism is nothing new

Macron could hardly be more wrong in his statements, Onet claims:

“France has a tradition of expressing its independence, grandeur and imperial ambitions in the language of dislike for the United States. This was the case in 1966, when then-president Charles de Gaulle took France out of Nato's military structures at the height of the Cold War because of the US's leading role in the alliance. Or when Macron declared that Nato was brain dead. Three years after this statement it has become clear that Nato, under US leadership, is the only international organisation capable of containing Russian aggression.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

Sensible conservative politics

The pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet praises Macron:

“The US is the world's number one superpower, but not everyone thinks that following Washington is the only way to go. Not even Macron, as his statements show. As the EU's only nuclear power and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Paris believes that the EU deserves a place on the world stage and that it would be a strategic mistake to keep following the big and strong US around like a faithful dog. ... The politician who was once a celebrated star of the liberals nowadays pursues a sensible, strict conservative policy.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Good cop, bad cop

Von der Leyen and Macron played very different roles in China, Le Soir notes:

“As von der Leyen had already made clear in Brussels, her China policy now focuses on reorientation and 'risk reduction' so that the EU limits its dependence and regains its autonomy in the most essential sectors. She made this clear to Xi Jinping and China's Premier Li Qiang. ... By contrast, Macron played the positive card of personal closeness to Xi Jinping and stressed the key role that powerful China can play in resolving the Ukraine conflict. ... Although it looked a bit like 'good cop, bad cop', the EU likely succeeded in getting important messages across to its Chinese partner.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

A joint peace plan on the horizon?

Radio Kommersant FM marvels at Beijing's advance support for a potential European peace initiative for Ukraine:

“On 7 April, when it seemed that the geopolitical issues remained unresolved, Xi Jinping proposed to Emmanuel Macron that he draw up his own peace plan, adding that China would support it and play a constructive role in its implementation. An a priori agreement doesn't suit the cautious and diplomatic Beijing at all. Apparently, the two heads of state and the EU Commission President nevertheless found time to talk in detail about the possible stages of a settlement of the conflict.”