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讓世界看到彩色的香港 讓香港看到彩色的世界

Opinion | He came, he saw, he conquered (Chinese hearts)

By Philip Yeung, university teacher


French President Macron's 3-day visit to China has shifted the axis of the earth. He came prepared. Not only did he bring along a 60-strong trade delegation, but on board his presidential jet was a surprise passenger: the red-hot Chinese movie star Gong Li, now married to a French citizen. He came not just to open Chinese wallets, but Chinese hearts too.

Macron was given an unforgettable red carpet welcome. But it goes beyond the pomp and pageantry of a state visit. He came to rekindle the love affair between France and China. And in this, he has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

In his historic visit to Guangzhou's Sun Yat-sen University, he was enthusiastically mobbed by 1000-plus Chinese students, some of whom spoke to him fluently in French. He was treated like a rock star.

In hard business terms, he took home trade deals worth over $20 billion US. But the success of his trip cannot be measured merely in money, but by the bold strategic rethinking of the Sino-French relationship.

His trip will always be remembered for his jaw-dropping remarks that Europe is "an ally but not a vassal" of the US. Keep in mind, these remarks were made not in China but after his return to Europe. He didn't say these things to please China, or on the spur of the moment, but after careful consideration------to reclaim Europe's strategic autonomy and to prevent the EU from being dragged into US fights that are none of its concern. He is the first Western leader with the backbone to say what needs to be said, not what America expects to hear.

Predictably, his unvarnished views have rattled quite a few cages, especially among China-hawks in America and in certain EU quarters. They accused him of "betraying" Taiwan, and of endangering peace in the region. But in truth, he has done the opposite---de-escalating tensions over Taiwan following the highly provocative meeting between its leader and US House Speaker.

His words have noticeably cooled American war rhetoric, once the façade of Western solidarity has cracked. The White House now says it wants to engage China in constructive dialogue.  All too often, US allies have become dangerously docile in American encirclement of  China. Until Macron, no other Western partner has dared to step out of line. In this, the French leader is harking eerily back to the streak of independence in the conduct of foreign affairs under President de Gaulle. France is free to think independently. It is nobody's stooge.

Far from damaging European unity, Macron might have just saved Europe and the world from another needless and calamitous war. It is becoming increasingly clear that the road to peace in Ukraine runs through Beijing. Expect a stampede of European leaders in China as the war drags on. The olive branch from Macron has opened China's door, while the European Commissioner who accompanied him to Beijing is described as "cutting a forlorn figure" as she continued to spout the same old tired baseless warning against China posing a threat to the rule-based international order.

What sheer nonsense! She has swallowed American fact-free propaganda whole. China has done no such thing. It is America that has left a trail of death and destruction, killing millions, for the past 70+ years, from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, to Afghanistan. Saber-rattling over Taiwan is a direct Chinese reaction to insufferable American provocations.

Macron came with an open mind. The Commissioner came with hers tightly shut. The French president can see a nation at peace with itself, free of racial or ethnic hatred, where streets are midnight safe, where a sense of purpose is expressed in gleaming high-speed trains and breathtaking bridges.  It's a well-oiled nation.

Macron has reaped a rich harvest, walking away with a 51-point bilateral agreement that covers multiple common concerns. He took home not just an agreement, but a shared positive attitude towards the peaceful resolution of pressing global issues. This is diplomacy at its fruitful best.

Over in America, Senator Marco Rubio is threatening to let Europe fight the Ukraine war alone, if it remains neutral over Taiwan. In other words, the Western alliance is conditional on Europe toeing America's line and joining its next fight.  Now you can see China's worry: as soon as the war ends in Ukraine, America will turn its guns eastward.

How can a nation that calls itself a defender of human rights be so full of venom towards mind-your-own-business China? America doles out distortions, sanctions, tech embargo, encirclement, and arms sales. Trump and truth don't go together; the same goes for Republicans and the Democrats. America is seething with aggression and division, torn by gun violence, hate crimes and suppression of minority voting rights, with "win-at-all-costs" dirty tricks. It is a nation gone rogue. Talk is cheap.

Macron has wormed his way into the hearts of 1.4 billion Chinese by swimming against the current of warped Western thinking on China. His actions will endure. This is what independent leadership smells like. But why are there so few Macrons?

Macron's pivotal visit has tapped into Chinese yearning for peace and common prosperity. It's got everything---the symbolism, the substance, and strategic sovereignty for Europe. Vive La France!

Could a Nobel Peace Prize for Macron be far behind?


The views do not necessarily reflect those of DotDotNews.

Read more articles by Philip Yeung:

Opinion | A Tale of two leaders--and of two regions

Opinion | Where is the joy in JoyYou Card?

Opinion | Capitalism has changed China for the better, but has made America and Britain worse


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