News - April 16, 2023

France seeks to reassure Taiwan over Macron’s controversial remarks

Airplane is seen in front of Chinese and Taiwanese flags

The French parliament is set to send two delegations to visit Taiwan this month after President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial remarks on China and Taiwan sparked criticism at home and abroad after his trip to State Visit to Beijing. 

On the flight returning from China, where he received a warm welcome, Macron said in an interview published last Sunday by French newspaper Les Echos that Europe should set its own policy on Taiwan to avoid being “followers” of Washington’s “agenda” on the subject of the ongoing dispute between Beijing and Taipei.

As his critics circled, the French president has stuck by his remarks, but added that European policy on Taiwan “has not changed” despite the furor over his remarks.

While Macron’s comments have won him praise from China, they have also sparked a global outcry with some critics accusing the French president of aligning with China Others, meanwhile, have deemed Macron’s comments as tone deaf and untimely.

Highlighting business and friendship

Facing mounting pressure over Macron’s remarks, French Minister Delegate for Industry Roland Lescure on Saturday sought to reassure Taiwan that French foreign policy regarding Taipei “has not changed” at a bi-annual meeting held in Paris by the Taiwanese Chambers of Commerce.

Meanwhile Taiwan Legislative Yuan Vice President Tsai Chi-Chang who led the Taiwanese delegation to Paris told Taiwanese media outlet Central News Agency (CNA) that relations between France and Taiwan have remained unaffected, but added that “Taiwan plays a crucial role in the global supply chain which includes France thanks to its economic power, so if something happens to Taiwan then France would be impacted [as well]”.

Again trying to highlight a positive in relations between the two nations, French Member of Parliament Éric Bothorel, head of a French National Assembly delegation set to visit Taiwan on Sunday, reaffirmed France’s support of the democratic nation and pointed to the rare transit of a French Naval vessel through the Taiwan Strait. He went on to say that the delegation’s visit also aims to strengthen cooperation and trade between the two countries, CNA reported.

Bothorel, one of the MPs that put forward a bill favouring Taiwan’s participation in international organisations that has recently been adopted by the French Senate, said that semiconductors will be on the agenda during the visit, along with culture and talent cultivation.

Meanwhile, a separate delegation led by French senator and chairman of the Senate’s Taiwan Friendship Group Alain Richard is expected to travel to Taiwan on April 24, Taiwan Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu told Bloomberg in an interview last week.

French diplomacy on thin ice

Tensions have been on the rise across the Taiwan Straitsover the past week as China launched large-scale military drills around the Island following Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s stopover in the US last week where she met with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

In a show of protest, China has conducted a 3-day combat exercise simulating the encirclement of the Pacific Island, claiming that it is “ready to fight” and suppress any independence movement from Taiwan. Although Beijing’s recent actions have been met with strong condemnations from the international community, experts say Macron’s remarks may lead China to think that France would not intervene in the event of a military invasion of Taiwan.

Despite the criticism, Emmanuel Macron has stood by his comments on Taiwan during a visit to the Netherlands this week. “Being an ally does not mean being a vassal… doesn’t mean that we don’t have the right to think for ourselves,” Macron told a press conference in Amsterdam with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

The French president has nevertheless sought to cool rising temperatures as he emphasised that “France is for the status quo in Taiwan,” adding that Paris “supports the One China policy and the search for a peaceful resolution to the situation.”

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