Why Is This Major European Country Embracing China?

March 4, 2022 Updated: March 4, 2022

Commentary

In December 2021, a number of countries, including the likes of Australia, the United States, and Canada, announced a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics, which recently took place in China’s capital, Beijing.

More symbolic than significant, the countries sent a passive-aggressive message to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In short, human rights abuses are not okay. An uncontroversial statement, but one that needs to be repeated—strongly and forcefully.

French President Emmanuel Macron, however, had no interest in conveying this particular message. Instead, he chose to label the diplomatic boycott “insignificant.” France, he said, had no plans of joining Australia, the United States, and Canada.

Why?

Because the boycott, he suggested, was merely “a symbolic step.” True, but a boycott, a protest of some sort, is better than nothing at all. Some kind of message to China is better than no message at all.

But that’s not entirely fair on Macron. He has sent a message to China, which goes something like this: let’s work together.

On Jan. 3, as reported by Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times, “China and France pledged to deepen bilateral economic and financial cooperation during a virtual economic dialogue.” Officials, we’re told, “vowed to collaborate in areas such as finance, nuclear energy, aviation and environmental protection.” The fourth area is particularly amusing, considering China appears to be dedicated to destroying the environment, not protecting it.

The Eighth China-France High Level Economic and Finance Dialogue, according to the Times piece, “underscored pragmatic and resilient cooperation between the two countries at a time when some European countries adopted a hostile approach toward China.”

Now, ask yourself, why would a European country—like Lithuania, for example—adopt a hostile approach to a hostile power?

The answer to that question is painfully obvious. Again, in short, China is not to be trusted.

An Odd Pairing

Both France and China, as The Times piece noted, have vowed to “support the applications of eligible French financial institutions to establish wholly owned securities firms in China.” This has all the makings of a marriage made in despotic heaven.

More recently, according to a Feb. 24 piece published by Deutsche Welle (DW), Paris and Beijing plan to penetrate the African continent, unveiling a number of significant infrastructures in the coming years. Not content with exploring the African market, the two countries also have plans to penetrate the South East Asian and Eastern European markets.

As the DW piece highlights, China and France “plan to jointly build seven infrastructure projects worth over $1.7 billion ($1.9 billion) in Africa, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe, making France the first country to establish the third-party market intergovernmental cooperation mechanism with China.”

Epoch Times Photo
Wine bottles are seen in a wine shop in Paris on Oct. 3, 2019. Speaking at China International Import Expo, French President Emmanuel Macron announced an agreement between the European Union and China about the mutual protection of food and alcohol products, which was formally signed on Nov. 6, 2019. Amid 26 protected French products are the Champagne, wines including those from Bordeaux and Burgundy regions, Cognac liquor and some cheeses like Roquefort. (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP Photo)

Proponents, we’re told, hope that the partnership “will make Chinese foreign investments more transparent.”

The skeptics, however (myself included), “suggest that it may simply provide an optical boost for Beijing in the face of growing conflict with the United States.”

In mid-February, Beijing and Paris signed the Fourth Round China-France Third-Party Market Cooperation Pilot Project List, which pledges to invest in other areas other than infrastructure, like the environment and renewable energy. The idea of the CCP helping to alleviate any environmental anxieties should be met with a healthy dose of skepticism—largely because the CCP’s environmental pledges don’t hold up to scrutiny. They never have, and chances are they never will.

In a recent press release, China’s senior planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), argued that “French enterprises have a unique advantage in advanced manufacturing, environmental protection and engineering construction, while Chinese firms have accumulated rich experience in basic infrastructure construction, energy, equipment building and the internet.”

Enterprises from both China and France, according to the authors of the release, “are complementary, and have a huge potential for third-party market cooperation.”

Eric K. Hontz, from the Center for International Private Enterprise, told DW that because the CCP has “a large presence in many Francophone areas,” it’s completely “natural that China and France should seek some sort of cooperation on infrastructure issues.”

What will China and France’s new partnership mean for France-U.S. relations?

Hontz doesn’t think the Beijing-Paris alliance “marks a dramatic shift in the relationship” between the two, traditionally close countries. Instead, he believes that the alliance between Paris and Beijing offers the French the opportunity “to continue to remain engaged and put itself, and its industry, forward into these markets.”

What Is China’s Goal Here?

With escalating tensions between the European Union and China, could the CCP be using France to gain some leverage? Could it be using France to launder its reputation?

After all, by teaming up with France, the fifth-largest trading nation in the world (and the second in the EU after Germany), China has a powerful ally, a respectable EU member that carries a great deal of power.

Of course, these questions, like most important questions, take time to answer. Nevertheless, when it comes to the CCP, ulterior motives always exist. Cloak-and-dagger machinations, and no shortage of smoke and mirrors. France, it seems, is yet another pawn in Beijing’s game of geopolitical chess.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the New York Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, and The Spectator US, among others. He covers psychology and social relations, and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation.