It is a centuries-old rule in politics that if you do not fare well politically within your own country, you should try and redirect the public gaze somehow onto the foreign policy.
Given that the German Chancellor did not wish to take him along on his trip to China with his official delegation for economic diplomacy last November, the French President Emmanuel Macron set off on a journey to China with his own respective economic delegation in the beginning of April this year. Though not exactly on his own but accompanied by a ‘supervisory body’ in the shape and form of the scrawny-looking President of European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Exactly that detail will make this fleeting visit to Beijing rather bizarre, because it is unclear how come Ursula von der Leyen found herself in Macron’s company en route to China.
But when it comes to Ursula von der Leyen, it is also rather unclear how she became President of the European Commission amongst other eminent candidates for the previous elections for the European Parliament. Her name is now being thrown in for her to become NATO Secretary General despite the fact that both friends and foes say, Politico reported a while ago, that her management of the German Ministry of Defense was a complete and costly failure. Then again, we do know that in the world of Western rules, they do not seem to have acquired a surplus of competence and democracy in the meantime. For the sake of illustration, Macron left for China from Paris which happened to be smothered with tonnes of garbage due to the strike of the communal utility services in charge of street sweeping and overflowing with anger by protesters who have been demonstrating for weeks now. Financial Times reports on unacceptable scenes of French police officers’ morally shocking and brutal ways in dealing with protesters. On that occasion even Iran expressed its concern and called France to talk to their citizens and not brutally abuse them physically. Poignant irony is self-evident and completely well deserved, aimed at Macron’s incompetent ways.
Macron has justified the presence of Ursula von der Leyen in his delegation with the claim that he was the one to suggest that she should accompany him in his trip to China so that the two of them can speak in political unison while there, representing the EU with joint forces. However, even though Macron has long nourished most profound wishes to be accompanied by ‘ladies of a certain age’, this justification does not come across as credible, but because the President of France did not express a similar boyish need in other similar situations for instance for his recent travel to Washington to meet with Biden. He was accompanied by Brigitte Macron there and Ursula von der Leyen visited Biden last month. All the political mirage related to President of European Commission is being enhanced by one particular detail to which Bloomberg indicates: The way China is treating Macron is not the treatment they are giving to von der Leyen whereas Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that Macron arrived in China upon the official invitation for a state visit issued by President of China, Xi Jinping. As for von der Leyen they just added that she is ‘on a visit’ agreed between the EU and China. In other words, nobody knows who has invited her so that we can conclude she is there more or less uninvited.
But that rather bizarre abovementioned aspect of the official visit of President Macron accompanied by von der Leyen to China is mirrored in the speech she had just delivered before her China trip in Mercator Institute for China Studies, which, because of their anti-China activities has been added to the list of Chinese sanctions since 2021. Of course, the choice of this place to launch messages targeting China on the eve of this trip was not a coincidence. In line with such an intention of ‘indecent political fornication’ instead of decently respectful political relations was the contents of the messages she sent off erratically in one way or the other. President of the European Commission von der Leyen seems to think that she on that occasion sent her message that Beijing is becoming ever more repressive at home and ever more aggressive abroad in that they propel the politics of disinformation and economic and trade coercion. And she also noticed that China is seriously encroaching upon human rights with the warning that that notorious issue of alleged breaching of human rights will be yet another test for whether the EU can and to what extent they can cooperate with China.
And now here comes the main issue: How will China continue to respond to the war in Ukraine will be a decisive factor for the relations between EU and China – she continues in a threatening, domineering manner unduly, noticing that President Xi instead of turning his back on President of Russia, continues relations without limits with Putin’s Russia and above all she added the EU will have to reconsider the comprehensive agreement on investments with China. Trade agreement reached with China at the end of 2020 has not been ratified yet. Admittedly, the world and China have changed in the past three years so thus we have to reconsider our agreements in light of our broader strategy towards China. Such messages sent either overtly or subliminally by von der Leyen are in obvious opposition to the members of Macron’s delegation in which ministers of finances, foreign affairs and culture are present and also the directors of about fifty leading French companies who surely did not travel to China to talk about human rights against Uyghurs in China or the freedoms of independent media in Hong Kong. And it is truly irrational to expect to sign any trade deals whatsoever if you previously have been uncivil and distasteful against your host(s). And you also send a message that you have no intention of adhering to the agreements you have signed with them. Such a business strategy is doomed to failure before it even starts. ‘Good cop, bad cop’ – remarks even the German Spiegel in their analysis of the situation whereas Fu Cong, the Ambassador of China to the EU, explicitly asked Europe to dismiss the demands of Washington to cease their trading with Beijing with the warning, reported on by the Financial Times that the U.S. will resort to any method in order to derail the normal relations between Brussels and Beijing and cause further disarray. Who in their right mind would leave such an enormous emerging market such as the Chinese market – Fu said while urging Europe to be persistent in their pursuit for strategic autonomy. Financial Times on the other hand at the end of November last year, referring to their diplomatic sources, reported that the USA has increased its pressure on NATO allies to align their approaches with the anti-Chinese policies in Washington.
It is surely a centuries-old rule in politics that if you do not fare well politically within your own country, you should try and redirect the public gaze somehow onto the foreign policy and try to make a success there one way or another. Macron will most probably try to make some success based on that thinking. At the end of the day this visit lasts for three days. This is his second visit to China since he was elected in 2017 whereas Xi was in an official visit to Paris once. The fact that von der Leyen joined him is being viewed as rather negative in the French public because she is considered a person lacking in democratic legitimacy. The Chinese though tend to be benevolent on the issue of Macron because they do want to have a bigger economic and financial picture at heart.
The Chinese surely welcome the visits from the EU regarding them as a sign of good will in the world of detrimental division and constant confrontations between the blocs, and the prevailing understanding that there is a place where they can discuss and debate broader geopolitical interests for all countries open for dialogue. The Chinese accept Macron as a representative of a country with which they traditionally have good relations so as to analyze if the EU stands any chance of going the way which would show signs of strategic autonomy. On the other hand, they want to respond to the avalanche in the EU mainstream media that both von der Leyen and Macron and all the others only come to desperately try and convince Beijing not to support Russia.
These are surely callow views and scorn-inducing delusions about serious political issues. How can they even think of influencing China into changing their foreign policy. It is the Chinese foreign policy to forge bridges and establish economic ties further. On an additional note, they want to see at what stage their European geostrategic thinking is, whether they will rechannel their politics towards Russia and to try and fathom if there is any potential in the EU to get disentangled from their almost lethal embrace from across the Atlantic. How does Macron respond to that political coercion from the U.S. and from within the EU? What is his visit to Beijing going to bring? And what is the role, if any, of Ursula von der Leyen in all that? The new political buzzwords thrown around in the arena by the shrieking EU elites seem to be de-coupling from China and de-risking its relationships with China. The Chinese shall surely approach everything with patience and wisdom.