Macron's call for European strategic autonomy in Sino-US relations

By Imran Khalid | Gwadar Pro Jun 30, 2023

Editor's Note: The writer is a freelance columnist on international affairs based in Karachi, Pakistan. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro. 

French President Emmanuel Macron's recent interview with CNN this weekend has once again caught the headlines in global media, particularly with reference to his views about the Sino-US relation. Macron's comments have sparked debates about Europe's allegiance to the US and the stance on sensitive issues like the escalating tensions between the US and China over Taiwan. Macron's perspective on this important global relationship is significant given his emphasis on de-escalation between China and the United States, while acknowledging the risks and challenges that exist within this relationship. However, he also highlighted the importance of maintaining dialogue and finding common ground for cooperation between China and the US as it is the essential prerequisite for the move towards a global agenda.

As per Macron, the global agenda must be focused on trying to fix the existing crisis, fighting against inequalities and poverty, fixing climate change and biodiversity as well as building a good framework and common regulation on artificial intelligence. “If there is no agreement between China and the U.S. on all these topics, it’s impossible to build a global agenda and to fix these issues,” said Macron in this crucial interview. In particular, Macron emphasized the need for multilateralism in addressing these global issues.

The concept of European strategic autonomy plays a crucial role in understanding Macron's perspective on Sino-US relations. It refers to Europe's ability to act independently and make sovereign decisions without being overly reliant on external powers – the United States. Macron advocated for Europe to chart its own course in navigating its relationships with major powers like China and the US. He stressed that strategic autonomy does not mean isolation but rather creating a balance between interdependence and independence. By diversifying its partnerships, Europe can enhance its resilience in an increasingly interconnected world.

Macron's positivity towards China was quite evident throughout the interview. He highlighted economic opportunities offered by Chinese investments, particularly in areas such as infrastructure development and renewable energy projects. Additionally, he stressed the importance of shared interests between Europe and China, including combating climate change and promoting sustainable development. “We want to have the best possible relation with China. We want and we have to work with China to fix climate change, biodiversity crisis, and a lot of conflicts in this world,” he expressed his intentions to build closer ties with China.

Critics argue that it may irritate the United States and some of his colleagues in the European Union. But Macron, it seems, is very much clear about the concept of Europe’s strategic autonomy in the domain of foreign and economic policies. He once again called for the creation of an autonomous Europe in his ongoing efforts to demonstrate that Europe is not subservient to any superpowers. These remarks are certainly very constructive in promoting a more multipolar world and increasing global stability.

It is evident that Macron maintains his previous position regarding two key points: firstly, he believes that multipolarization is inevitable; secondly he asserts that Europe should be one of the poles of multipolarity maintaining its independent position in order to serve its own interests rather than being subservient to other forces. Macron's endorsement of strategic autonomy has resonated with Chinese policy makers who believe that the West should not view China through the lens of Washington.

While Macron acknowledged the importance of stability, he questioned Europe's ability to intervene in a potential crisis, highlighting the limitations of European influence in global conflicts – particularly on the matter of Taiwan. “For me, it’s very important to have a much more autonomous Europe and European Union. Why? Because it’s useful for the global order. I think it’s useful even for the US,” he said. He emphasized the need for Europe to avoid blindly following the US agenda on sensitive issues like Taiwan, warning against the potential escalation of tensions. Macron argued that Europe should not become a mere follower but should instead pursue its own strategic autonomy. This perspective raises questions about the future of transatlantic relations and Europe's ability to balance its alliances with the US while pursuing its own interests.

Similarly, Macron's position on Taiwan has been a point that is quite straight forwards, particularly given the recent tensions between the US and China over the island. While Macron has been emphasizing the importance of stability in the Taiwan Strait, he has been consistently questioning Europe's ability to intervene in this matter. He argues that Europe should not escalate tensions with provocative actions related to Taiwan. Macron's stance shows that a new wave of fresh thinking is taking shape in Europe, which is readily accepting China’s perspective on the global political equilibrium based on a shared vision, shared responsibilities and shared benefits. It also shows that Beijing’s persistent diplomatic efforts are being perceived positively in the European capitals – Berlin and Paris in particular. 

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