PARIS – In an interview published Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron stated that Europe must not be a “follower” of either the US or China on Taiwan, warning that the EU risks becoming entangled in “crises that aren’t ours.”
His remarks risk infuriating Washington and highlighting tensions inside the European Union over how to approach China, as the US escalates confrontation with its main adversary and Beijing moves closer to Russia in the aftermath of its invasion of Ukraine.
“The worst thing would be to think that we Europeans must be followers and adapt ourselves to the American rhythm and a Chinese overreaction,” Macron told reporters after returning from a three-day official visit to Beijing on Friday.
Invoking his treasured ideal of EU “strategic autonomy,” French President Emmanuel Macron stated, “We must be clear where our views overlap with the US, but whether it’s about Ukraine, relations with China, or sanctions, we have a European strategy.”
“We don’t want to get into a bloc versus bloc logic,” he stated, adding that Europe “shouldn’t be caught up in world disorder and crises that aren’t ours.”
China considers democratic, self-governing Taiwan to be part of its territory and has threatened to annex it one day, using force if necessary.
Angered by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy last week, Beijing promptly conducted extensive military drills surrounding the island after Macron left for France, including simulated strikes on its territory.
Macron discussed Taiwan with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday during a visit in which he was feted but more hardline EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was largely ignored.
According to his Elysee Palace, the talks were “dense and frank,” and the French president was concerned about “growing tensions in the region,” which could lead to “a terrible accident.”
Macron was “simply talking about the risk of Chinese ‘overreaction,’ forgetting China wishes to change the status quo by taking over Taiwan one way or the other,” according to Antoine Bondaz of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS).
“Why this desire never to remember we have an interest in maintaining stability?” he said, cautioning that “this ambiguity… instills doubt in our like-minded partners.”
Macron added that the island of Taiwan was just one region where there was a potential of “an acceleration of tensions breaking out between the duopoly” of China and the US.
If the conflict advances too rapidly, Europeans “won’t have the time or resources to finance our strategic autonomy and will become vassals,” he warned, “whereas we can build a third pole if we have a few years.”
Macron has long sought Europe’s development as an independent geostrategic player, following in the footsteps of Fifth Republic founding president Charles de Gaulle, who regarded France as a balancing power between Cold War blocs.