French President Emmanuel Macron has faced criticism from China-skeptic lawmakers for his comments on Taiwan during an interview with POLITICO. The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), which consists of lawmakers from 29 countries, issued a statement arguing that Macron’s remarks, which called on Europe not to align with the US and escalate the crisis over the disputed territory, undermine the international community’s commitment to maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait. The statement was signed by 15 MPs from national legislatures in the European Union (EU), including one from Macron’s own party, as well as three members of the European Parliament and 13 UK parliamentarians. The lawmakers also argued that Macron’s comments came amid ongoing Chinese military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, making them particularly ill-timed.
Macron called for “strategic autonomy” for Europe and warned against the risk of the continent becoming “caught up in crises that are not ours” as this might prevent it from building its own strategic autonomy. He added that it was not in Europe’s interest to accelerate a crisis in Taiwan. However, the comments unleashed criticism from across the Atlantic, with Republican Mike Gallagher, the chairman of the US House of Representatives Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, calling them “embarrassing” and “disgraceful”. German MP Norbert Röttgen, a former head of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, suggested that Macron had turned his visit to China into “a PR coup for [Chinese President Xi Jinping] and a foreign policy disaster for Europe”.
Macron has faced increasing geopolitical challenges since taking office in 2017. In the face of isolationist threats from the UK and the inward-looking policies of the Trump administration, Macron has sought to promote a more assertive Europe that can defend its own interests without having to rely on the US or the UK. One aspect of this has been his emphasis on the need for the EU to develop its own self-sufficient security capabilities, particularly given the aggressive military posture of both Russia and China in recent years. However, critics argue that his approach to China is too conciliatory and ignores China’s human rights abuses and aggressive posture towards Taiwan, Hong Kong and other territories.
IPAC seeks to work towards “reform on how democratic countries approach China,” particularly with regard to developing a “coherent response to [its] rise”. The group argues that China poses a significant threat to the international order, particularly within the realms of trade, economics, cyber-security and human rights. It co-ordinates between members and shares intelligence and analysis, as well as lobbying governments to adopt a more assertive stance towards China.