Diplomacy.  How is Emmanuel Macron's France perceived in the world?

Diplomacy. How is Emmanuel Macron's France perceived in the world?

It is the turn of Chinese President Xi Jinping to be received in Paris by Emmanuel Macron in the coming days. This visit follows those of the sumptuous visits of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Versailles (May 2017), of American President Donald Trump to Paris (parade of July 14, 2017), of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (July 14, 2023), and is part of France's desire to influence the course of the world. It remains to be seen what it really is.

What are the results of this ceremonial diplomacy?

State visits are part of the normal course of exchanges. What is more interesting is China's ability to play, within the framework of a bilateral relationship, on the nuances, even the differences between Westerners, and even between Europeans. I doubt that Xi Jinping's next visit to Paris will have been the subject of prior consultation between Paris and Berlin, any more than the recent visit of the German Chancellor to Beijing. However, France (like Germany) has little weight alone against China. To influence major issues, the response should be unitary and, at a minimum, European.

Is the gap between the emphasis of the word and reality a typically French phenomenon?

The gap between rhetoric and results is part of the game. But, in fact, in France, the word counts more. Declared intentions weigh more than concrete applications. To say is to do. Big speeches and spectacular gestures are enough in themselves. It's Don Quixote syndrome. Even if France is also careful to win big contracts – that’s its Sancho Panza side. As a consequence of this grandiloquence, in Europe, our pretension to play solo annoys; in Africa, we have become a scapegoat in the Sahel and face competition from China and Turkey elsewhere. And in the United States, as in Europe, we maintain the reputation of an ally that is not always reliable, sometimes suspected of its ultimate intentions. In reality, whatever the geographical area, France can only act within the framework of coalitions.

What are the structural weaknesses of French projection today?

The debt, the trade deficit, a social model that is running out of steam. And the total absence of strategic debate within our political class, which prefers to take refuge behind the easy alibi of a “Gaullian” posture.

Withdrawal from the African continent, hesitations on Ukraine, reversals on Gaza, desire for “European sovereignty” which remains largely at the stage of good intentions… How can we judge Emmanuel Macron’s record?

Europe remains the preferred marker of the President who speaks of a “European power agenda”. The real test could come in January 2025, if Donald Trump wins the US election. We would then see if France has the capacity to coordinate the position of the Europeans vis-à-vis Washington or if the latter manage, in a dispersed manner, their bilateral relationship with the United States.

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