France’s Macron, Having Realized Europe Is Mortal, Turns to a Rendezvous With Communist China’s Xi Jinping

They mount an expedition to the pic du midi in the Pyrenees — could the famously rarified air clarify the mind of the party boss?

AP/Ng Han Guan, pool
Presidents Macron, second from right, and Xi, left, outside the Great Hall of the People at Beijing, April 6, 2023. AP/Ng Han Guan, pool

President Macron of France, having realized that Europe is “mortal,” has assumed the task of resuscitating it. Yet a number of his proposals and tactics, including his hosting of Xi Jinping in Paris next week — Mr. X’s first European visit in five years — might rather hasten Europe’s undue demise. Some also raise doubts over France’s reliability as an American ally, particularly in matters concerning Communist China.

In his rendezvous with Mr. Xi, President Macron is expected to broach matters of the Middle East, climate, and Chinese investment in France’s electric-vehicle sector, an area he is eager to expand. He is also expected to urge Mr. Xi to leverage his influence to pressure President Putin to end his war in Ukraine. Should the grandeur of the Élysée prove inadequate for the task, Mr. Macron seems to hope a more intimate setting might help.

Following a formal state dinner on May 6, the French president will accompany Mr. Xi to the Pyrenees’s Pic du Midi, where he passed childhood summers with his grandmother. The gambit is as much Freudian as it is perplexing. Does Mr. Macron expect the high altitude and rarified air to dissuade Mr. Xi of his pursuit of a new world order? Does Mr. Macron grasp the reality of a Sino-Russian alliance? Or does he share some of Mr. Xi’s vision?

Thehe last question bears asking. Surely on Ukraine, the French president must by now realize that Beijing’s position aligns with Moscow’s, not Paris’s or the West’s. Since early 2023, China’s backing for Russia’s military manufacturing and its supply of military vehicles, drones, and satellite imagery has surged. A conflict-ridden, structurally weakened Europe would be fertile ground for Beijing to advance its political aims. 

Beijing, too, appears poised to do so. Its 12-point “peace plan,” published last year, stresses its readiness to “support” Europe’s “post-conflict reconstruction.” A similar point was reiterated by Beijing’s attaché to Paris earlier this week. “Arrangements for the post-war European security architecture” are being made, he told Chinese journalists. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has praised the plans as the most reasonable to date.

To the extent that Mr. Xi might pressure President Putin to end hostilities, then it would be on terms favorable to both leaders. The two are due to meet in Beijing later this month. Still, Mr. Macron persists. “It’s in our interest to ensure that China has a say in the stability of the international order,” he recently told the Economist. “We need to work with China to build peace.” Similar blather was used regarding President Putin in 2022.

Since then, Mr. Macron’s views on the Kremlin have changed. This makes his pursuit of Beijing — which, together with its axis of chaos that includes Russia, Iran, and North Korea, all intent on dismantling the very Europe whose mortality Mr. Macron fears — curious. Unless, that is, understandings of “stability” — as, for instance, a multipolar world order with Europe, led by France, as the “third superpower” — are in some way shared.

Visions of “peace,” too. This seems the most plausible reading of Mr. Macron’s political picture. Independent of Beijing’s support of Russia’s war in Ukraine, which Mr. Macron continues to regard as an aberration in Europe’s historical arc rather than as a fundamental shift, he likely sees Beijing as strategically expedient for realizing Europe’s autonomy and his vision of a “new Europe,” about which he has fantasized since 2017.

Should President Macron persist along this path, America might then reconsider the scope of its alliance. Mr. Macron’s push for multipolarity inherently weakens America’s global standing and bolsters China’s. Moreover, his proposals, including increased Chinese participation in France’s electric vehicle industry and his climate stance, exploited by Beijing for concessions elsewhere, would sooner make France a vassal of Beijing than Washington.

While we cannot expect full alignment from our allies on every policy issue, they also shouldn’t presume our unfettered support when their actions oppose our national interest. In this regard, Mr. Macron’s push for bolstered European defenses, including talks on a nuclear deterrent, is apt. His policies, coupled with the geopolitical reality of a Communist China readying to seize Free China, point to a strategic repositioning of our ties.

Yet in his pursuit of Beijing Mr. Macron would be wise to heed his own concerns regarding Europe’s mortality. For he might find that by driving a wedge in the transatlantic alliance, it is he who hastens Europe’s demise. For it is Beijing, not Washington, that threatens Europe’s security. And by driving a wedge in the transatlantic alliance, it might be he who hastens Europe’s demise. “You should never engage in political fiction,” Mr. Macron said. Never, indeed.

The New York Sun

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