In the latest of important but nevertheless exciting forecasted developments, Chinese President Xi Jinping met visiting French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in Beijing Today, Monday to improve strategic cooperation and show a public commitment to the One Belt One Road project on the part of the EU. But what are the reasons for these continued public recitations?
As these developments unfold, it appears that the US’s falling out with the EU means that the EU is able to plug into the growing multipolar economy without the constraints imposed on it by the apparently moribund transatlanticism. This would help explain why the EU and France are increasing their public rhetoric and photo-ops to promote that the EU and France are indeed part of the Eurasian development project from China, One Belt One Road.
What is striking here is that if one follows the language used by Xi, his hailing the China-France “comprehensive strategic partnership” and his calling on more “efforts in building trust and deepening cooperation” is that he’s fully aware that this cuts against the US’s attempts to contain China, and in fact has propelled the EU to seek reconciliation with Russia. Among the primary side effects of the US’s trade war, whether or not this was inevitable and not speaking to its desirability, is that it compelled greater economic development with China.
It’s still unclear how committed France and the EU is to pushing this line and seeing it through, or how much of it is trade war brinkmanship and power-plays made for show in the face of the US. The end of transatlanticism doesn’t mean the end of trade between the EU and the US. So when Xi said China “appreciates France’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative and France’s role in bridging China and the EU in terms of strategic development”, it does mean that formally France and the EU are engaged in further publicizing the EU’s interest in the One Belt One Road initiative.
This has massive implications in terms of the EU’s independent course of development. In talking about China and France Xi stressed that the two countries should uphold multilateralism and defend international norms.
The rise of multipolarity makes multilateralism possible. Diplomacy has historically hinged upon the default principle of finding it desirable to have as many allies as possible.
On France’s part, it is notable the specific things that Philippe said today. The first is that he reaffirmed that France remains committed to the previous bi-lateral public statements which came from French President Emmanuel Macron’s successful visit to China at the beginning of this year, once again highlighted the importance of strategic cooperation between the two nations. “China has made both long-term planning and down-to-earth achievements, and its achievements are admirable”, Philippe added.
Philippe also stressed that France is willing to continue to deepen bilateral economic and trade exchanges, and promote strategic cooperation in civil nuclear energy, aerospace and other fields with China. He also noted that the Belt and Road Initiative is “a vision of cooperation for the future”, which is in the interest of all the mankind.
All of this would be truly strange as a publicity stunt meant to deliver a wake-up call to the US. For its part, the US remains committed to a trade system based on tariffs that favor domestic consumption of US goods. This of course does not ignore the fact that raw materials and pieces used in US production can often be of foreign origin. The US cannot out-develop China at its present rate, but it can make its balance of trade and internal obligations solvent. The present US debt continues to spiral, and such moves on the part of the US are aimed at keeping its machine running.