Analysis & Opinions - Institut Montaigne

Macron’s Travel Diaries - First Step: China

| Jan. 08, 2018

Macron’s decision to start off the year with a trip to China carries a symbolic weight, which adds a special aura to his arrival in Beijing. Elected in May by 66 % of the French electorate and supported by a strong parliamentary majority, the President was able to assert his power and authority. A quality much appreciated by Chinese leaders, who are astounded by Angela Merkel and Theresa May’s fragility, despite their respective successes in their countries’ parliamentary elections. 

France’s relationship to China is different to that of Germany and the United Kingdom. Indeed, the former is China’s first economic partner in Europe, and the latter will most likely become a hub for Chinese finance - once Brexit is “finalized”. Numbers show that China does not consider France as an economic power as important as Germany, despite many of its companies having made a name for themselves in the Chinese market. Amongst them are industrial companies such as Suez, Schneider Electric, Veolia, Seb, EDF and Michelin, luxury brands like Vuitton or Hermès, retailers like Carrefour and Auchan, and L’Oréal.

Macron comes prepared with many examples and sharp arguments in mind for his second encounter with Xi Jinping (they first met during the G20 in July 2017). Since 1964 - the year the People’s Republic of China was officially recognized by Charles de Gaulle’s government - the relationship between Beijing and Paris has varied from tough (like under François Mitterrand or Nicolas Sarkozy), to warm (as under Jacques Chirac) to neutral (as during Francois Hollande’s term). In the last years, France’s regional presence has become more balanced, encompassing more Asia-Pacific partners, like India, South Korea, or South-East Asia. No doubt this change has not remained unnoticed by China. Today, France is also the only European country to have a military presence both in the Indian Ocean and in the Pacific. France has the second largest exclusive economic zone in the world after the United States (11 million km2), located mainly in the Pacific (62%) and Indian Ocean (24%). It works closely with the U.S., Australia and New Zealand - which are other important regional maritime powers - thanks to the quadripartite monitoring group on maritime safety in the Pacific. 

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Le Corre, Philippe.“Macron’s Travel Diaries - First Step: China.” Institut Montaigne, January 8, 2018.

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