The French President facing heat at home has unfolded a disaster abroad – and the world won’t have it. Xi’s China and the CCP’s intentions are obvious – manipulate, malign and menace. However, it seemed quite toilsome for the French President, Emmanuel Macron, to escape the Chinese ignis fatuus. And sensing the recreant in his French Counterpart, Xi, through Macron, ridiculed NATO & the West.
Good-looking, sprucely besuited and articulate in speech are some qualities that might strikethose taking cognisance of French President Emmanuel Macron. He is 45 and is serving asecond Presidential term; although securing a thinner margin in his second bid. However,unfortunately for France and the world, all that glitter is not gold. Still, in the early years of his second Presidential term, the French President is unfeigned, reckless and more confidentthan ever in his acumen to bring home domestic and international priorities – something heseems to have miserably failed at. France is on fire, in the wake of the most harrowingprotest in recent history, and the world is in ire of France’s fallacy on China – and Macron’soverestimation of himself is at the heart of the crisis.
The French President did well in his first term in office, he wished to advance Europe, bracethe French Republic and democracy, reform outdated laws and metamorphose the economicoutlook and scope of the country. While all of Macron’s wishful thinking did not turn intoreality, his intentions, though meagre, were reflected in his performance in the first fiveyears. Moreover, Macron was cautious back then, reluctant to outright reforms, anddesperate to maintain his guise. He maintained a safe distance from contentious issues andgave in to the demands of protestors and agitators. Despite his meticulous vigil of the publicmood and concerns, the French President found himself in a laborious struggle to get reelected in the 2022 Presidential elections. Macron was betting on his liberal policies,economic delivery, and leadership during the pandemic and the beginning of thedevastating Russia – Ukraine conflict. A strong advocate for European solidarity, he sought aunanimous and unwavering European Union & NATO commitment to Ukraine. To betterhis chances, the arch-rival, Marine Le Pen, and her extreme right stance were not settlingwell with the French people. Therefore, the slight ideological edge over his rival and theprevailing circumstances got Macron a second term in office – one which would witness thePresident embark on an astray wander.
The current blend of domestic and international crises Macron sprewed, originate in acontentious pension reform his government recently undertook. The pension reform, thougha necessity, has always been a hot topic in France. But it was Macron’s haphazardness thatdebilitated an already stressful situation. The pension reforms were a key component ofMacron’s 2023 re-election bid, their prevailing unpopularity, to cut Macron some slack, isunprecedented. 14% of France’s GDP goes into funding pensions and if the retirement age isnot increased from 62 to 64 years then fiscal pressure accumulates on the youngergeneration. Further, to avail complete pension, citizens must make social securitycontributions till 43 years of age, a year more than the previous 42 years. These reformswould ease the pension deficit borne by the government and even increase the pension by 2.5% – 5% for the poorest 30% of the population. However, the Unions argued for thereforms to be unfair towards low-skilled workers, starting their careers early, and termedthem as ‘disproportionate’. Since then Nationwide demonstrations are regular sighting inFrance with train services being disrupted and as many as 1.27 million people coming out onthe streets. Unequivocally, the reforms are widely despised, however, the criticism flared dueto the twisting of the legislative procedures in the implementation of the reforms and aslight indication of irrelevancy flagged by France’s pension system. France’s upper house ofthe Parliament, the Senate, duly passed the reforms, however, they were busted through theNational Assembly, due to lack of support of Macron’s centrist Renaissance Party. Thisevasion of a proper vote in the National Assembly infuriated the French opposition and themasses at large. Later, Macron’s government and the Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, wouldnarrowly survive a vote of no confidence – nevertheless exhuming the confidence of thepeople in their President.
While Macron’s troubles at home were a result of slight impulsiveness and hastiness,following good intentions (the reforms were a necessity), his obliviousness to China – was anoutright blunder. Moreover, Macron’s fiasco in China appears increasingly grotesque anddull-witted, given it comes in the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and China’swar-mongering in the Taiwan Strait. France and Macron have reaffirmed their commitmentto Ukrainian sovereignty, meanwhile, China intends to supply Russia with arms. Macronhas time and again underpinned France as an adherent follower and staunch advocate of“democratic principles”, around the world. China, in lieu, perpetually toys with the sameprinciples, Macron’s France vouches for. As novel contradicting ideas and practices emergedbetween China and France or largely the West, President Emmanuel Macron travelled to hisChinese counterpart Xi Jinping’s den and languished; succumbing to the dragon andmocking all those virtues his country “sincerely” pursues. Macron’s unambiguous andunprecedented submission to Xi only bolsters the Chinese President’s malicious intentions.While the President’s pusillanimity is shaming for the French people, it is equallyunfortunate for the West and those troubled by unjustified Chinese aggression. The so-calledunity between the NATO and the US is now questionable, given the brazen comments of akey ally on enemy soil. Further, Macron’s comments – “Europe should not get involved in awar that is not ours” – cracks wide open the much-berated European hypocrisy. As IndianExternal Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar, remarked “Europe has to grow out of the mindset that its problems are the world’s problems but the world’s problems are not itsproblems” – sadly for the West, Macron only reinvigorated the scrutiny of the global southtowards Europe.
President Emmanuel Macron’s three-day visit to China gave both sides of the Atlantic ablow out of the blue. Macron’s volubility in Beijing to uphold “European StrategicAutonomy” in the Taiwan Strait crisis by not becoming “vassals” of either the US or China,amusingly, has raised concerns for Europe’s ability to maintain strategic autonomy as wellas territorial integrity, as scepticism on Europe’s choices grows in Washington. For no onewas Xi-Macron bonhomie more lumbersome than Ursula von der Leyen, President of theEuropean Commission, travelling to Beijing on Macron’s inducing and thereafter becomingthe closest witness to the ignominy hurled on her land by one of her own. Unsurprisingly,China did not let Macron do all the horseplay, shrewdly, the dragon made its own attemptsto pounce on what remained of the “European Unity” and honour after Macron’s ambush.While Beijing rolled out a red carpet along with a state banquet and a military parade forMacron, Von der Leyen received a disdainful reception on her arrival. The difference inwelcoming gestures is the dragon’s way of cleaving the European Union.
Emmanuel Macron’s three-day trip concluded on 8 April 2023 in Guangdong, woefully, theFrench President’s tirade against the US did not end. Macron “spoke frankly” withjournalists on his way back home. Under the disguise of advocating European autonomy,the French President berated the bloc’s closest ally – the US. He even called out the InflationReduction Act of the Biden administration and its ramification for Europe. The FrenchPresident described the Taiwan Crisis as a “trap for Europe” and urged to relent followingan “American Rhythm” or a Chinese overreaction. Macron equated the US, one of France’sclosest allies and a trusted security partner, and China, one of the most menacing threats toEuropean security. It seems inconceivable for a President of a European nation, let aloneFrance, to fail in comprehending the direct and indirect threats posed by China to Europe.France, a self-proclaimed and supposed global leader, aims to lead by not getting “involved”or “trapped” in perhaps, potentially, one of the most distressing conflicts that could strikethe world. Is then France a global leader? If at all, Macron believes in the policy of “nonindulgence” then why do so by emboldening China to inflict a conflict in Taiwan Strait,instead of cautioning it of the consequences any conflict would result into? Does the President of one of the world’s proudest democracies have no respect or concern for thedemocratic rights of the Taiwanese people? And then on Macron’s beloved and bewilderedconcept of “strategic autonomy” – how does the French President look to protectingEuropean autonomy by submitting to a key ally of the biggest threat to Europe’s strategicautonomy and a major global aggressor?
Macron might have failed to answer but leaders in the US and Europe did. Predictably,Macron’s brazen comments drew a lot of attention and hard-hitting reactions. The USRepublican senator Marco Rubio said if Macron spoke for all of Europe, then the US shouldconsider focusing its foreign policy on containing China and leave Europe to handle the warin Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal said in an editorial that the French President’s “unhelpfulcomments” would undermine US deterrence against China in the western Pacific, whileencouraging US politicians who wanted to reduce American commitments in Europe. “IfPresident Biden is awake, he ought to call Mr Macron and ask if he’s trying to re-electDonald Trump,” the paper wrote. One Member of the European Parliament stressed that theFrench leader did not speak for the EU. “Macron says, ‘Europe should’ and ‘we Europeans’,but he speaks for France, he can’t really speak for Europe. Norbert Röttgen, a Germancentre-right MP who is a member and former chair of the Bundestag’s foreign affairscommittee, said Macron had turned his trip to China into “a PR coup for Xi and a foreignpolicy disaster” for Europe. “With his idea of sovereignty, which he defines in demarcationrather than partnership with the USA, he is increasingly isolating himself in Europe.”Reinhard Butiköfer, an MEP who chairs the European parliament’s China delegation,described Macron’s China visit as a “complete disaster”. Finally, von der Leyen recently saidthe EU needed to reassess its relations with a Chinese government that had ramped up“policies of disinformation and economic and trade coercion”.
China is an autocratic regime and no one can prevent its aggression by sweet-talking theautocrat, only a firm, unambiguous and collective stance on what is acceptable and what isnot can deter the Chinese intimidation. The quicker the world understands this simple factthe better it will be for its autonomy and integrity. Emmanuel Macron needs to reconsiderhis viewpoint and take it in parity with the standards of the country he heads, the prevailingcircumstances in Europe and, last but not least – the reality.