On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron talked with his US colleague Joe Biden, but their positions on Taiwan diverged, barely 10 days after Macron faced criticism from friends over the subject.
In an interview with the French daily Les Echos and the news portal Politico, Macron called for the European Union to become a “third pole” in world affairs, alongside Washington and Beijing, and he warned against being drawn into a Taiwan crisis driven by a “American rhythm and a Chinese overreaction.”
The comments came on a trip to China that was meant to showcase European unity on China policy, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also taking part, but highlighted differences within the EU and angered Washington.
A readout from the French presidency made no direct mention of Taiwan, merely saying that both sides desired to “support international law, including freedom of navigation, throughout the Indo-Pacific region.”
The White House statement was in stark contrast, saying the two leaders “had reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
While many of Macron’s previous remarks were not new, the timing of their publication – at the end of a high-profile trip to China, as Beijing carried out military exercises near Taiwan – and their bluntness annoyed countries in eastern Europe. Many governments in that region see ties with the U.S. as sacrosanct, particularly given Washington’s key role in helping Ukraine defend against Russia’s invasion.
The omission of a customary call to maintain the status quo in the region had also irked allies. While French diplomats have sought to downplay the remarks and limit the damage, the failure to mention Taiwan in Thursday’s statement is likely to again raise eyebrows.
The French presidency also said it had presented “results obtained” from the China trip to Biden, although it did not elaborate on what those results were.
Contrary to the White House statement, the French presidency said China had a role to play in the medium term to ending the war in Ukraine.