(CNSNews.com) – French President Emmanuel Macron ended a high-profile visit to China telling reporters that Europeans should look to their own interests and not become “followers” when it comes to Taiwan.
In reaction to the striking comments from the leader of America’s oldest ally, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the U.S. should ask Europeans if Macron speaks for them – and he sounded a warning about Ukraine.
If U.S. allies in Europe align with Macron’s position and are “not going to pick sides between the U.S. and China over Taiwan,” Rubio said in an online video clip, “then maybe we shouldn’t be picking sides [over Ukraine] either.”
Following a three-day visit that included six hours of talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Macron was interviewed on his plane by reporters with Politico and a French paper, Les Echos.
He told them Europeans were at risk of being drawn into “crises that are not ours,” which in turn would prevent Europe from being able to develop its “strategic autonomy” – something Macron has been pushing for years.
The question Europeans need to answer is whether it is in their interests to accelerate a crisis over Taiwan, he said.
“No,” Politico quoted him as saying in response to his own question. “The worse thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction.”
Macron’s visit coincided with the fallout over a meeting in California last week between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. China, which claims the self-governing democracy as its own territory, reacted angrily to the reception Tsai received, and has since launched major wargames near Taiwan including simulated strikes against the island.
“Why should we go at the pace chosen by others?” Les Echos quoted him as saying, in relation to the Taiwan issue. “At some point, we must ask ourselves the question of our interest.”
“We Europeans need to wake up. Our priority is not to adapt to the agenda of others in all regions of the world.”
According to the two outlets, Macron said Europe has increased its reliance on the U.S. in the military and energy fields and should work to lessen its dependence, including its dependence on the U.S. dollar.
“Strategic autonomy means assuming that we have similar views with the United States, but whether it’s on Ukraine, the relationship with China or sanctions, we have a European strategy,” Macron told the French paper. “We don’t want to go into a bloc-to-bloc logic.”
Politico noted at the end of its report that as a condition for the interview Macron’s office insisted on checking the president’s quotes before publication. It said the presidency had “cut out” some portions of the interview “in which the president spoke even more frankly about Taiwan and Europe’s strategic autonomy.”
‘We’re spending a lot of our taxpayer money on a European war’
In his video clip, Rubio said it was a good moment for the U.S. to ask Europe if Macron speaks for all of Europe, and if he is “the most powerful leader in Europe.”
“Because if he is, then there’s some things we’re going to need to change.”
Rubio said France and Europe have depended heavily on the U.S. for their defense for the past 70 years.
“If they’re going to break out on their own and follow Macron’s lead, that’s going to save us a lot of money.”
“As far as not getting involved in other conflicts that are not ours, we need to ask Europe, does he speak for them? Because we’re pretty heavily involved in Ukraine right now,” he said. “We’re spending a lot of our taxpayer money on a European war.”
Rubio has supported U.S. backing for Ukraine in response to the Russian invasion, and he said he believes it’s in the U.S. national interest “to be allies to our allies” in Europe.
“But if our allies’ position – if in fact Macron speaks for all of Europe, and their position is they’re not going to pick sides between the U.S. and China over Taiwan, then maybe we shouldn’t be picking sides either.”
“Maybe we should say we’re going to focus on Taiwan and the threat that China poses, and you guys handle Ukraine and Europe.”
In other reaction to Macron’s quoted remarks, Francois Godement, a senior advisor for Asia at the Paris-based think tank Institut Montaigne, called it astonishing that Macron had spoken in the context of Taiwan of a “U.S. agenda” and a Chinese “overreaction.”
“Inverting cause and consequence is standard PRC and Putin propaganda,” Godement tweeted, adding, “to see him fall for it shows either ignorance or a cynical nod to China.”
Antoine Bondaz of the Foundation for Strategic Research, also based in Paris, said it was “paradoxical” that Macron referred to the risk of Chinese “overreaction” but forgot that Beijing “wishes to change the status quo by taking over Taiwan one way or another.”
Bondaz said the “ambiguity” in Macron’s remarks will instill “doubt in our like-minded partners.” He wished French diplomats good luck in their damage control efforts.
Chinese state media outlets responded warmly to Macron’s visit.
“For too long, the Chinese people have not seen a Western leader demonstrating the courage and ability to ignore Washington’s either-China-or-us choice while dealing with relations with Beijing,” opined China Daily, while a Global Times commentator wrote that “France can be said to have taken the lead in undoing the U.S.’ containment strategy.”
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