French President Emmanuel Macron concluded his state visit to communist China this past week. His behaviors during the visit and comments afterward revealed him as a useful idiot of the CCP as well as an ungrateful and unreliable partner of the United States.
Macron went to China with the European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. Before the trip, Macron hoped to persuade China’s leader Xi Jinping to “reason” with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to end the Russia-Ukraine war. Instead, Macron let himself be played by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) like a fool.
The CCP deployed a typical divide-and-conquer strategy during Macron’s visit, intentionally treating Macron and von der Leyen differently. Before leaving for China, von der Leyen called for a “bolder” EU policy on China because Beijing has become “more repressive at home and more assertive abroad.” Her Chinese hosts responded by giving her cold shoulders — they didn’t roll out a red carpet for her and excluded her from certain state functions between Xi and Macron.
In contrast, the CCP showered Macron with pomp and pageantry, including a full red-carpet welcome at the airport and an extended meeting between Macron and Xi that lasted four hours. Macron concluded his state visit by having tea with Xi at a garden in Guangdong, a province Xi’s father used to be in charge of.
A video clip demonstrates how far the CCP would go to stroke Macron’s outsized ego. Macron was seen walking down a street as crowds of Chinese people eagerly tried to shake his hands as if he were beloved in China. The “lovefest” in China starkly contrasted with violent protests on the streets of Paris, where Macron was condemned for his unpopular pension reform.
Anyone who knows the inner working of the CCP understands that the party plans diplomatic events in minuscule detail and never allows the Chinese people to interact with foreign leaders freely. Thus, Macron’s walk and warm welcome by the Chinese people was a highly-choreographed event by the party, and “the crowd” was likely selected by the government to create an illusion.
Although von der Leyen was not in China for a state visit, some European officials in Brussels were still reportedly upset that the Chinese government didn’t extend her the same respect and courtesy as Macron. By treating the two European leaders differently in public, the CCP meant to send the message that those who criticize China will be punished, and those who toe the line will be rewarded. Instead of putting up a united front with von der Leyen, Macron relished the special treatment and extra attention he received.
To please his host in Beijing, Macron reportedly spoke on issues such as Taiwan and China’s human rights in a tone that “was far more conciliatory than von der Leyen’s,” which betrayed the supposed unity of the European Union’s China policy. Macron was either clueless about how the CCP works, or he willingly played his part in the CCP’s propaganda as long as it boosted his own ego. Whatever Macron’s motive was, allowing himself to be manipulated by the CCP like a fool was embarrassing and sad.
Besides driving a wedge between the two European leaders, the CCP sought to use Macron’s visit to weaken the transatlantic alliance between the U.S. and Europe. Politico says China’s Xi Jinping and the CCP “have enthusiastically endorsed Macron’s concept of strategic autonomy.” Encouraged by China’s endorsement, Macron and Xi issued a joint statement, announcing the two nations would deepen their economic and military ties.
On the economy, Macon agreed to welcome Chinese technology companies such as Huawei to France, even though many of France’s allies, including the U.S. and the U.K., banned Huawei from their 5G networks out of national security concerns. On the military, Macron agreed that France would deepen its military exchanges with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Southern Theater, which covers China’s military operation in the South China Sea.
The joint announcement came a day after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and a bipartisan congressional delegation in California. During the meeting, Speaker McCarthy pledged more U.S. military support to help Taiwan defend itself. The CCP was so furious with the meeting that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) navy launched a series of live-fire drills from last week to early this week and imposed a blockade around the island for a few days, interrupting the region’s busy international shipping activity.
The Macron and Xi joint statement delivered Xi and the CCP a vital propaganda victory and caused a rift between Europe and the U.S. At the same time, Macron received little in return — Xi never promised to “reason” with Putin and end the Russia-Ukraine War as Macron had hoped.
Yet on his way back from China, Macron doubled down by telling reporters that Europe must not become a follower of the U.S. on the Taiwan issue or “get caught up in crises that are not ours, which prevents it from building its strategic autonomy.” Macron also called on Europe to reduce its reliance on U.S. weapons and energy. But he’s all talk with no actions. According to Politico, France “has contributed far less to the defense of Ukraine against Russia’s invasion than many other countries.”
Whether Macron likes it or not, his country and the rest of Europe’s security and economic well-being largely depend on the United States. American weapons and intelligence have kept Putin from occupying Ukraine and expanding his European control. American energy has helped keep Europe’s lights on and prevented the continent from falling into an energy-driven economic recession.
Needless to say, Macron’s comments drew criticisms from both sides of the Atlantic. In an interview, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., said, “Macron’s comments play into the CCP’s strategy to divide America and Europe.” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., demanded to know if Macron speaks for Europe. A member of the European Parliament quickly responded on Twitter, stating, “Macron doesn’t speak for Europe. But his vanity is deeply damaging to Europe.”
Unfortunately, even if Macron doesn’t speak for Europe as a whole, he’s president of the largest country there. His words and actions will affect how the continent will respond in the event of China’s invasion of Taiwan and whether its response will be effective.
As The Wall Street Journal editorial points out, Macron only wants “the U.S. to ride to Europe’s rescue against Russian aggression but apparently take a vow of neutrality against Chinese aggression in the Pacific.” Suppose the Biden administration had counted on Europe’s support in defending Taiwan and imposing economic sanctions on China. In that case, now is the time to rethink America’s strategy and preparations, including reassessing partnerships and allies.
Macron’s behaviors in China and his comments revealed that he is a useful idiot of the CCP and an ungrateful and untrustworthy partner of the United States. It’s worth asking: With a friend like this, who needs an enemy?