Emmanuel Macron’s Visit to China Could Prove to Be the Catalyzer of a Major Strategic Shift

French President Emmanuel Macron began his three-day visit to China on Jan. 8 in Xian, a symbolic city representing the departure point of the ancient Silk Roads toward the West. In his speech on that occasion at the Daminggong Palace, he outlined his views of Franco-Chinese cooperation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which imply a definite break with the currently dominant geopolitical doctrine in the EU.

In asserting that France was willing to work with China to undertake great infrastructure projects in Eurasia and Africa, Emmanuel Macron became the first leader of a major EU country (also a member of the UN Security Council) to espouse the dynamic of “win win” cooperation initiated by President Xi Jinping in 2013.

In his speech in Xian, the French President noted that China “has managed to lift 700 million people out of poverty in recent decades.” A similar challenge against inequalities is posed for France as well, “where we are confronted with mass unemployment, with the imperative need to give prospects for the future to a whole part of our population, but it is also a challenge to the world which is undergoing a crisis of globalized capitalism, that has considerably increased social inequalities and the concentration of wealth , in recent decades.”

On the strategic side, Macron said the West must overcome the “unilateral imperialism” carried out by France and other European powers in Africa and elsewhere, adding: “we must draw the lessons of the past. Every time we tried to impose the ‘truth’ or the ‘law’ against the people themselves, we were wrong, and sometimes we produced an even worse situation. As in in Iraq, or Libya today.” The sovereignty of the people must be respected, he went on.

As for the geopolitical paradigm dominating Western thought, he said: “There should be neither a disguised supremacy, nor a conflict between competing supremacies. All our art, if I may use that word, will not be the art of war, but an art of balanced cooperation in order to ensure the geostrategic, political and economic harmony our world needs.”

Macron referred implicitly to the West as a “tired, post-modern world,” where great epics and great dreams have been forbidden. Most importantly, he identified the New Silk Road as the connection required among all peoples to achieve this new world order. “I think that the initiative of the New Silk Roads, can meet our interests, those of France and of Europe, if we give ourselves the means to really work together…. It is up to Europe and Asia, up to France and China, to define and propose together the rules of a game in which we will all win, or we will all lose. I have come thus to tell China my determination to have the Euro-Chinese partnership enter into the 21st century with this new grammar we must all define together.”

He praised China’s intervention in Africa, where “China has invested heavily in recent years, in infrastructure, raw materials, with a financial strength that European countries do not have.” He called for Franco-Chinese cooperation in Africa, to “carry out projects that are really useful for the growth of the continent, financially sustainable — because the future is there, because we must not reproduce the mistakes of the past of creating political and financial dependence, under the pretext of development.”

However, as former French presidential candidate Jacques Cheminade has warned, if Emmanuel Macron truly wants to join the dynamic of the New Silk Roads, he will quickly face the need to reorganize the financial system and to recreate a national banking system able to issue public credit for investment in infrastructure, the industrial sector and new technologies. For the moment, the major European banks, riddled with bad debts, are banned by the European Central Bank from making productive investments, even if they wanted to.