Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte made a 3-day state visit to the U.S. from November 29 to December 1st. This is the first state visit of Biden’s Administration, officially announced as the most important visit of an old ally, freedom and democracy fighter, and key partner of the U.S. (after the U.K. exited the EU, PM Boris Johnson and Liz Truss resigned and Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel retired). It was clear that the ‘bromance’ between Trump and Macron was soured over Trump’s view on the expansive and expensive NATO. Later the U.S. - France relationship hit the bottom since the U.S. highjacked the Australian submarine deal from France. The current overextending Russia-Ukraine war, the U.S. Indo-Pacific policy targeting China raising world tension plus a list of global issues such as Iran, climate, energy, supply chain and economy all hanging over Macron’s mind despite his frequent phone calls with Biden (7 one on one calls and a dozen joint calls with other leaders). Although the U.S. diplomatic stand is playing up the old U.S.-France ally relationship and praising Macron with words pleasing to his ears such as strongest U.S. partner, leader of G7 and EU and defender of democracy, the real concern of Macron is that as a 44-year old young world leader, he is standing at a crossroad. The first choice is to follow the U.S. leadership in joining the U.S.-led alliance targeting rising China. The second choice is to act independently rallying the EU to consider its own interest in dealing with world affairs, particularly its relationship with China. Put it in a plain language, Macron needs to check the GPS signal and the real road signs at the crossroad to determine where to go. This glamorous U.S. State Visit and his planned trip to China next year may just prove to be an orientation scout tour to find out whether Uncle Sam is a true pro-Atlanticist caring about the EU or the old Oriental China really has world harmony in her DNA.
Prior to the State Visit, Macron had made his complaint clear that the U.S. in solving its domestic problems should not transfer them to Europe. Specifically, he is referring to the U.S. subsidy program to help the U.S. domestic electric vehicle industry which will hurt the European auto industry and export economy, and the U.S. semiconductor policy luring hi-tech manufacturing and supply chain to move to the U.S. while cutting off export to China. These subsidies clearly violate WTO regulations which supposed to protect the free market principles. After the glamorous visit, did Macron obtain any substantial concession from Biden? Based on their joint announcement, press conference, and media report, we would say that the U.S. did not admit any wrongdoing, neither the Administration nor Congress would apologize for their domestic measures. Macron said he did not want the U.S. to give France/Europe anything special whereas Biden offered a conciliatory tone by agreeing to ‘review and adjust’, if necessary. This outcome is expected since the White House had all along decided to pacify Macron with a first glamorous State Visit but would not yield anything to him for two reasons. One, the U.S. would not boost Macron’s gesture as the leader of Europe. Second, the present Europe did not have much to bargain for. Biden essentially treated this State Visit as a social event no matter how hard Macron tried to convince him that he needed to change his policies and how hard he tried to reach the American people (Macron resorted to English answers in the press conference to reach Americans directly).
However, the above observations were on the surface, a lot of events might have a direct or indirect impact on the U.S.- France or U.S.-Europe relations. By reviewing these events, we might discover more hidden truths than what meets the eye. The Russian-Ukraine war is certainly the focal point of world affairs. It is increasingly clear that the rage Russia-Ukraine conflict has become a U.S.-Russia confrontation with Europe acting as an ally of the U.S. As the war rolled on with the bombing of the ocean gas pipes compounding oil sanctions, some European countries, especially the leading nations have experienced severe economic hardship. The only country that benefitted from the Russia-Ukraine war seems to be the U.S. (chipping in surplus weapons but gaining huge profits from energy sales replacing the Russian sales). The U.S.-China policy (Indo-Pacific strategy) not only appears more like Cold War II but also mimic the Russia-Ukraine war with Taiwan Strait tension. The similarity is that the U.S. might be again the only beneficiary when U.S. allies in NATO and Indo-Pacific were dragged into the anti-China conflict. Chancellor Schotz of Germany visited China last month. European Council President Charles Michel is visiting China as Macron is completing his visit to the U.S. Are these separate trips independent of each other? Hell no, for all you know, these trips were all coordinated prior to, during and after the EU Council meeting in October.
If Macron were serious trying to get the EU to carve out an independent path free from U.S. control, he must convince the EU to act as a union. He also needs to get Germany’s full support. It is likely that these trips convinced their suspicion that the U.S. will be stubborn in strategy to maintain its supremacy by crushing China’s rise no matter who else will be the collateral victim. These trips may also convince these leaders that China’s rise may not be a real threat to Europe, or the world as being painted. Europe stands to benefit in a multi-polar world especially with China’s market opening to Europe while the U.S. market is shrinking from Europe. If this scenario were true, then Macron’s State Visit to the U.S. may open a new chapter of world diplomacy. We shall be able to see its new direction clearly after Macron steps onto China’s soil next year.