Europe’s policy on Taiwan is mired in controversy

President Macron’s contentious comments after his China trip fueled anger on both sides of the Atlantic

It has been called “a PR coup for” China’s Autocrat Xi Jinping “and a foreign policy disaster” for Europe.

The fallout from French President Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to Beijing last week continues to reverberate across the European Union and the halls of power in Washington.

His cozy chats with Xi were followed by a controversial interview with Les Echos and Politico on France’s Air Force One during the journey back to Paris after his three-day jaunt.

“The paradox would be that, overcome with panic, we believe we are just America’s followers. The question Europeans need to answer … is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan? No,” Macron said in an interview with Politico.

“The worse thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the US agenda and a Chinese overreaction,” he added.

Key issues:

  • Macron made it clear the EU should not become a “vassal” state.
  • Europe should also avoid being drawn into a conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan.
  • EU “strategic autonomy” should be the goal by avoiding military and “economic dependencies.”
  • Naturally, his comments set off alarm bells on both sides of the Atlantic.

Delve deeper: Norbert Röttgen, the former chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the German parliament or Bundestag, branded his trip a “foreign policy disaster.”

Between the lines: “With his idea of sovereignty, which he defines in demarcation rather than partnership with the USA, he is increasingly isolating himself in Europe,” Röttgen said as reported by The Guardian media group in London.

To make these remarkswas a mistake.

Mujtaba Rahman, of the Eurasia Group

Big picture: Just hours after Macron’s trip, China launched massive naval and air force drills around Taiwan. Beijing described the exercises as “encircling and blockading” the democratic island in the event of a full-scale invasion. 

Crazy comments: “To make these remarks as Chinese military exercises encircled Taiwan – and just after his state visit to China – was a mistake. It will be interpreted as appeasement of Beijing and a green light to Chinese aggression,” Mujtaba Rahman, of the Eurasia Group, said.

Frenemies at the gates: Marco Rubio, the Republican senator and former US presidential candidate, went even further. He posted an online video suggesting Washington should re-think its own foreign policy priorities.

What he said: “If Macron speaks for all of Europe, and their position now is, they’re not going to pick sides between the US and China over Taiwan, maybe then we should not be taking sides either?.?.?.?and [let them] handle Ukraine.”

State of play: Chairman of Everything Xi would like nothing better than to split France and other EU nations from Washington’s alliance of democracies. Macron simply handed him a tasty diplomatic treat.

China Factor comment: More than one-third of global trade worth at least US$3 trillion runs through the South China Sea. Taiwan also produces up to 90% of the world’s most advanced semiconductors that power today’s high-tech economy. If Beijing was allowed to dominate the region, it would be a “disaster” for European economies.