What does France’s inclination toward China signify?

The nations that are considered close allies are drifting away from Washington as tensions over Ukraine and Taiwan saddle up between the US, Russia, and China. The most recent addition is the anti-American sentiments made by French President Emmanuel Macron even though in China a while ago. On April 5, amid China’s preparations for the Taiwan Strait, the French President savored Beijing’s hospitality on a separate state visit. During the significant visit, Chinese President Xi Jinping offered Emmanuel Macron high accolades. In an interview with Politico and other media outlets following the visit, Macron blasted the US government’s stance. He contrasted Europe to the American heir. He also argued for Europe to take a neutral posture on the Taiwan issue.

“If we work together, we can build a promising future. France and China’s friendship will endure.

On April 7, Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, posted on social media in Chinese, English, and French.

Both sides of the Atlantic were upset by Macron’s remarks, and Washington was incensed that a close partner would make such comments. Macron’s recent visit, though, made clear how tense things are between the US and its European allies. Furthermore, French President Macron’s rage toward the United States is not unintentional. Since a few months ago, France has been publicly criticizing its primary NATO ally. It results from a failed multibillion-dollar submarine purchase agreement between France and Australia.

The strategic relationship between China and France is a complex and multifaceted one that has evolved over the years. While there have been occasional tensions and disagreements, the two countries have generally maintained a positive and constructive relationship based on mutual respect and shared interests. One of the key areas of cooperation between China and France is trade and investment. France is one of China’s top trading partners in Europe, and the two countries have worked to increase bilateral investment and trade in recent years. They have also collaborated on major economic projects, such as the construction of a nuclear power plant in China.

In addition to economic ties, China and France have also cooperated on a range of political and strategic issues. Both countries are members of the United Nations Security Council and have worked together on issues such as climate change, terrorism, and global governance. Culturally, China and France have a long history of exchange and interaction. French culture and language are highly valued in China, and many Chinese students study in France each year. Similarly, French tourists are drawn to China’s rich history and cultural heritage.

Since being elected as China’s president, Emmanuel Macron has traveled there three times. President Xi Jinping met with him in Beijing and Guangzhou from April 5 to 7 for extensive and fruitful discussions. A fresh avenue for cooperation between the two nations was made possible by the meeting’s increased mutual respect and trust. The two sides announced a concerted initiative to advance several areas, including enhancing political discussion, simultaneously improving global security and stability, enhancing economic cooperation, reviving cultural exchange, and concurrently addressing global concerns.

The three high-level discussions between the two nations—strategic, economic, and cultural—were temporarily interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects. A new conference of three high-level discussion systems—strategic, economic, and cultural—will be organized this year in addition to the yearly meeting of the presidents of the two countries, according to the two sides. Additionally, the two sides agreed to respect each other’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and basic interests. As a result, France declared once more that the “one China policy” would continue. It illustrates how highly both parties regard one another politically.

Let’s now penetrate a little more deeply into this area of discussion. Australia and France agreed to a purchase agreement for submarines in 2016. The 66 billion Euro contract is said to as the biggest military deal ever signed by France. It was possible to expand France’s defense sector as well as provide employment for thousands of French nationals under this deal. Australia abruptly withdrew from the deal to purchase this submarine, though, in September 2021. Except for France, Australia has ratified the AUCAS trilateral military pact with the US, UK, and Australia. They declared the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines built with British and American technologies.

Seeing this massive military contract in front of them makes France understandably outraged. France alleges conspiracy and betrayal against two key NATO members, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Paris also announced that its ambassadors to the US and Australia would be leaving to concentrate on that matter. Following that, even though the other allies’ relations returned to normal, France has not yet forgotten the wounds caused by the trust breach, as demonstrated by Macron’s remarks made when visiting China.

It must be said that France and the US have traditionally been close allies and partners on a wide range of issues, such as counterterrorism, climate change, and trade. However, there have been some disagreements and tensions in recent years, particularly over trade policy and Iran’s nuclear program.

One major point of contention was the US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement in 2017, which was a major blow to France and other countries that had worked hard to negotiate the agreement. French President Emmanuel Macron has been a vocal critic of the US decision and has called for greater global cooperation on climate issues.

Another issue that has strained the relationship between France and the US is the ongoing dispute over digital taxes, which France implemented in 2019 to target large technology companies like Google and Amazon. The US has argued that the tax unfairly targets American companies and has threatened to retaliate with tariffs. Despite these challenges, France and the US continue to work together on many important issues. The two countries have a long history of cultural and economic ties, and they share many values and interests.

But there is a big concern. In the international arena, the US has recently been losing allies one by one. It is evident that the allies of the United States favor Beijing over Washington gradually. An illustration of this is the recent development of tight Sino-Saudi relations, which were facilitated by Iran. Additionally, China’s recent suggestion of acting as a mediator in the Israel-Palestine conflict has fanned the flames.

The allies are giving importance to their advantages in enhancing economic relations with Beijing rather than engaging in war with China at Washington’s urging. The visit of French President Macron to China was shocking actually. But, France’s leaning toward China does not necessarily indicate a fully shifting away from its close alliance with the United States. France has traditionally maintained strong ties with both countries, and it is possible to have positive relationships with multiple countries at the same time. It is important to note that countries’ foreign policies and alliances are complex and multifaceted, and it is not accurate to draw sweeping conclusions about a country’s leanings based on a single aspect of its engagement with another country. In global politics, however, we must constantly monitor a continually shifting world order since it affects multiple aspects.

S.M. Sayem
S.M. Sayem
S.M. Sayem is a Dhaka-based foreign policy analyst. He is studying Economics at the University of Chittagong. Contact: smsayem[at]049gmail.com