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Macron comments raise questions about Europe's allegiance to the U.S. and Taiwan

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron visit the garden of the residence of the Governor of Guangdong on April 7.
JACQUES WITT
/
POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron visit the garden of the residence of the Governor of Guangdong on April 7.

Updated April 11, 2023 at 11:14 AM ET

French President Emmanuel Macron drew consternation on both sides of the Atlantic with a recent interview in which he questioned Europe's allegiance to the United States.

Macron spoke to journalists from Politico Europe and the French newspaper Les Echos, saying that "the great risk" Europe faces is that it "gets caught up in crises that are not ours, which prevents it from building its strategic autonomy," especially when it comes to the U.S.'s escalating tensions with China over Taiwan. In the interview, he suggested that the "worst thing" would be to "take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction."

Elected officials in both the U.S. and Europe criticized Macron's comments, which were made Friday before China launched combat exercises around Taiwan in response to last week's visit to the U.S. by the Taiwanese president..

The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) said in a statement that Macron's comments are "severely out of touch" with sentiment across European leadership: "You do not speak for Europe," it said.

Noah Barkin, a senior advisor with the China practice of the research provider Rhodium Group, calls Macron's remarks "concerning" from a U.S. perspective in a conversation with Michel Martin on NPR's Morning Edition.

"I don't think that Macron's messages necessarily reflect the European consensus on China," he said.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


Interview highlights

On Macron's comments as cause for concern

Anyone who watched the trip, Macron's interactions with Xi Jinping and the messages he sent afterwards in a number of interviews were concerning I think from a U.S. perspective. But I think one needs to remember that France is only one of 27 EU countries and there are many other countries who think differently.

On European criticism of Macron's remarks

I don't think you're going to see European leaders come out and sort of condemn or criticize Macron in public. We have seen a number of senior German officials, for example, come out and criticize Macron... [but] we're going to have to see how this plays out. I think we're going to have intense discussions over the coming months within the EU about China policy.

On Macron's call for more strategic autonomy

France has for a long time promoted this idea of strategic autonomy, and that started really in earnest during the Trump administration. There was a concern as much about the U.S. as about China sort of forcing decisions on Europe.

On relations between the U.S. and France

I think looking ahead, France and the U.S. got over the dispute over AUKUS, the nuclear submarine deal between the U.S., U.K., and Australia. Europe and the U.S. have gotten over the chaotic pullout from Afghanistan. So my sense is that this is certainly concerning, but it's something that Europe and the U.S. can get over.

Jan Johnson and Miranda Kennedy edited this story for digital. contributed to this story

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

H.J. Mai