Geopolitical angling and the French president’s visit to Beijing


There are pitfalls and opportunities for France in China as President Emmanuel Macron prepares to meet Xi Jinping. Will France be able to stand up to China’s agenda?

Agence France-Presse reports: “French President Emmanuel Macron will visit China for three days starting January 8, the Chinese foreign ministry said Tuesday, after the young leader declared the need for a stronger Europe to ‘face China.’” The Diplomat has published a piece (paywall) by Valérie Niquet, head of the Asia division at Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, Paris, titled “What does France’s president want to achieve in China?”

  • “The ambition of the Chinese leadership is to persuade the French president to position himself on issues like North Korea as a ‘go-between,’ defending ‘dialogue’ against the more ‘aggressive’ posture of the United States, and to implicitly recognize by his choices the pre-eminence of China in the region,” according to Niquet.
  • “Macron may be all too ready to welcome that role,” Niquet argues, but that it “cannot serve the interests of France in an area where the will to find support against a destabilizing and too assertive Chinese power is the common point of all of Beijing’s neighbors.”
  • However, France has already shown some strength in looking after its own interests, including supporting “the strengthening of regulations for Chinese investments in sensitive sectors,” and official caution about the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Niquet concludes that the “successes of the new French presidency’s ‘Asian policy’ will be appreciated only in light of the capacity that Paris will demonstrate — by concrete actions — to maintain a necessary balance between the powers of the region.”