France snubs China with its Indo-Pacific forum

French President Emmanuel Macron has engaged in mixed messaging on China | Christophe Simon/AFP via Getty Images

POLITICO – January 27, 2022 12:57 pm

The move comes as Beijing seeks to extend its influence in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea.

As France prepares to roll out the red carpet in Paris next month for a forum where EU ministers will meet 30 Indo-Pacific foreign ministers, the absence of China will be all too conspicuous.

France’s guest list for the event on February 22 runs from regional heavyweights like Japan, India and South Korea through to archipelagos like Comoros and Micronesia, but Beijing isn’t there.

The event will focus on “the challenges security and defence, digital issues and connectivity, in the context of the ‘Global Gateway’ initiative on global infrastructures, as well as global issues,” according to the French government’s outline of its EU priorities at the start of the year. Global Gateway is the name given to the EU’s aspirations of matching Beijing massive Belt and Road Initiative — a network of strategically crucial infrastructure systems connecting China to Western economies.

French President Emmanuel Macron has engaged in mixed messaging on China. Late in 2020, for example, he was one of the main EU leaders pushing to land a landmark trade deal despite deep international concerns about Beijing’s human rights records. He is also expected to dispatch a junior minister to attend the Beijing Winter Olympics next week, defying Washington’s call for a diplomatic boycott. In the geostrategic realm, by contrast, Macron has been looking to push the EU toward an Indo-Pacific policy that acts as a counterweight to China’s rising might.

France, as current holder of the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, is also pushing the bloc toward greater “strategic autonomy,” which is supposed to reduce dependence on Chinese manufactured goods in sectors ranging from health care to engineering.

Like China, the U.S. didn’t receive an invitation.

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE : France snubs China with its Indo-Pacific forum – POLITICO


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