Visiting French President Emmanuel Macron said in Sydney Wednesday that the rise of China was “good news” but there needed to be “balance” in the region. It’s important “not to have any hegemony,” Macron added. He also vowed to work with Australia to place France and Australia at the heart of a new Indo-Pacific axis. These remarks were widely interpreted by French and Australian media as targeting China. France was trying to be part of an Indo-Pacific strategy to counterbalance China’s influence and prevent regional hegemony: This is what they read from Macron’s remarks.
Macron didn’t directly refer to China when he talked about regional hegemony. He stressed that France’s Pacific presence was not antagonistic to China. But his speech left sufficient room for media to extend it to China. Macron was playing tricks. His speech catered to voices calling for containment of China while trying not to offend Beijing.
To be honest, the Indo-Pacific strategy was vague. Especially when China is improving relations with India and Japan, the strategy lacks impetus to transform into joint actions.
President Macron seeks to boost France’s major power status using the Indo-Pacific. After all, there are a few French islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans, with a total of more than 1 million French citizens. Macron should also visit those islands territories to better display France’s vastness.
On the one hand, France attempted to build influence by participating in the campaign against “hegemony” in the region and taking advantage of the Indo-Pacific strategy. On the other, Paris doesn’t want to affect the atmosphere of China-France cooperation. But France overestimates its balance strategy. It is opportunistic.
There is indeed a hegemonic power in the Indo-Pacific region: the US. But Macron dared not hint at the fact. He would rather band with those who accuse China of being a new regional hegemon. France and China are far apart. It’s unimaginable what makes the French people feel “China’s hegemony.” The biggest link between China and France is trade and investment. Chinese society in general has a good impression of France. France has no reason to grumble about China.
Macron’s speech is baffling. The only explanation is that as France is in decline, opportunism is rising within its diplomacy. France can hardly play a big role in the Indo-Pacific region either politically or militarily. China is enhancing mutual trust and developing cooperation with surrounding countries through effective control of differences. But Australia seems to be an exception. Macron played petty tricks in his speech in Australia. This will cause no damage to China, but such a speech flies against the favorable impression of France held by Chinese people.
[This editorial appeared in the Chinese version of Global Times on May 4, 2018 under the same title..(http://niasindiainchina.in/2018-05-04/editorial-macrons-opportunism-on-indo-pacific-region/)]