French President Emmanuel Macron and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited China one after another. Macron’s interview during the visit sparked a huge controversy in the US and Europe. Some of Baerbock’s statements were directly related to Macron’s remarks.
Macron’s and Baerbock’s statements further highlighted crucial differences of approach between the two countries’ leadership on a number of key issues.
In this article, we compare Macron and Baerbock’s statements on 5 issues.
1) “Alliance is not vassalage”
After his China visit, Emmanuel Macron stated: “Being an ally does not mean being a vassal … [or] mean that we don’t have the right to think for ourselves”, referring to the US in a press conference in Amsterdam together with his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte. He spoke for Europe’s neutrality, siding neither with China nor the US: “We should not be caught up in a disordering of the world and crises that aren’t ours… 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.”
“Partnership with shared values”
Contrary to Macron, Annalena Baerbock placed weight on the need for partnership with the US. Saying the EU “cannot be indifferent” to tensions over Taiwan, Baerbock underlined the importance of partnerships with partners with shared values like the US would be crucial when faced with security threats such as with Russia.
2) Emphasis on not being dependent on the US
Macron stressed the need for Europe to be strong on its own and his warnings were accordingly. Urging that Europe should not be hit by crises that are not its own, he claimed Europe’s need for strategic independence. Macron’s other assertive remark in this context was about reducing Europe’s dependence on the “extraterritoriality of the US dollar.”
Emphasis on not being dependent on China
While Macron stressed “dependence on the US”, Baerbock preferred to warn of “dependence on China”. She said Germany has “dependencies on China in some areas that are not healthy”. “What is clear is that the lessons we have learned from Russia’s war of aggression must of course also be taken into account with regard to China,” Baerbock said, drawing a parallelism with dependence on Russia in the energy.
3) Positive tone on Ukrainian issue
Macron spoke in a positive tone both before and after his visit about China’s possible contribution to end the war in Ukraine. Before the visit “China is the only country in the world that can have a sudden and radical impact on the conflict” said French President, and to his counterpart Xi Jinping: “I know I can count on you to bring back Russia to reason and everyone back to the negotiating table.”
Negative tone on Ukrainian issue
Similar to Macron, Baerbock spoke of China’s possible contribution to end the war in Ukraine. But the focus of her speech was different from Macron’s. Unlike Macron, Baerbock called on China to “stop Russia’s war of aggression”.
Baerbock also raised the issue of “Chinese arms supplies to Russia”, which the US has been warning Europe about for some time, and said that arms delivery to Russia should not be allowed -a topic Macron did not even mentioned.
President of the European Commission Von der Leyen, who visited China with Macron, had said that if China were to supply arms to Russia, it would violate international law and “significantly damage” EU-China relations.
4) No specific warning on Taiwan
Macron stated that France accepts the “One China” policy, meaning that the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate representative of China.
The French President did not make a specific statement on Taiwan, but announced a principle that includes the Taiwan issue: Being a follower of neither the US nor China.
“Unacceptable points” regarding Taiwan
Baerbock, like Macron, said that they accept the “One China” policy. However, he also mentioned the “unacceptable points”: “A unilateral and violent change in the status quo would not be acceptable to us as Europeans… A military escalation in the Taiwan Strait … would be a worst-case scenario globally and affect us as one of the biggest industrial nations in particular.”
5) Macron did not bring up the “human rights”
Macron’s visit to China mainly addressed the economy and the Ukrainian issues. The French President did not comment on China’s political system and the issues surrounding it.
Baerbock brought up the “human rights”
In contrast to Macron, Baerbock criticized China from a “human rights” perspective. Baerbock expressed concern that “human rights are being curtailed” in China and that “the space for civil society participation is shrinking”.
The German Foreign Minister specifically addressed the issue of East Turkistan and referred to the United Nations report on the issue that alleges violations of rights committed by China.