Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The Most Important Line in the China-France Joint Statement – The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on April 21, 2023

That short sentence near the top of the joint China-France declaration may be the most important policy statement to come out of Macron’s trip to China. It may signal a foundational shift in the global movement toward a multipolar world.

Ted Snider

On April 7, after three days and several hours of meetings, Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron issued a joint declaration between France and China. The declaration contained much of interest on trade, nuclear war, the war in Ukraine, the food crisis, climate change, and more. 

But the most important line may be a short nineteen-word sentence that appears early in the document. In a section on “promoting global security and stability,” China and France declared that “They seek to strengthen the multilateral international system under the aegis of the United Nations, in a multipolar world.”

Multipolarity is the world-vision and language that frequently appears in China-Russia joint declarations. Now France has signed a document that, together with China, offers a multipolar world as an alternative to the unipolar world sought by the U.S. It is one thing for China, Russia, or the other members of multipolar international organizations like BRICS or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to call for balancing U.S. hegemony in a multipolar world. It is quite another for a key NATO ally to make the call.

This potentially seminal statement suggests a fundamental divide between France and the U.S. The U.S. seeks to maintain a unipolar world with America at its head, with no “potential future global competitors”—in the language of the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance—and Europe as its subordinate partner. The joint declaration suggests that France seeks to break from that project. 

A world with several poles and all countries, large or small, having an equal voice has long been advocated by China and Russia. After his meeting with Macron, Xi said that Europe is an “independent pole in a multipolar world.” It is not surprising that Xi walked away from their meetings making such assertions. It is quite another thing for Macron to walk away from their meetings asserting the same world view. In an interview aboard his plane, departing from Beijing, Macron said that Europe must achieve “strategic autonomy” and become a “third superpower.” He advocated for a Europe that is not a junior partner in a U.S.-led unipolar world but for a Europe that “can be the third pole.”

“Quite a few” European leaders may “think like Emmanuel Macron,” according to European Council president Charles Michel. “There is indeed a great attachment that remains present—and Emmanuel Macron has said nothing else—for this alliance with the United States. But if this alliance with the United States would suppose that we blindly, systematically follow the position of the United States on all issues, no.”

Macron is neither breaking from the U.S. nor opposing it. He has said that France is “an ally of the Americans. We are not equidistant between China and the United States,” adding that they don’t always “have the same interests.” Macron maintains that “Strategic autonomy means assuming that we have similar views with the United States, but,” he says, “whether it’s on Ukraine, the relationship with China or sanctions, we have a European strategy.” Assertions of alliance aside, Macron is breaking from the American worldview and key foreign policy goal of a U.S.-led unipolar world.

That French, or perhaps even European, strategy has lately not had the same interests as U.S. strategy on a number of key issues, including Ukraine and sanctions on China. 

Contrary to the American refusal to negotiate NATO expansion to Ukraine or Russia’s security concerns, Macron has said that the West “must address, as President Putin has always said…the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia.” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has similarly said that “all questions of common security could be solved and discussed.”

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