French Polynesia and France’s Indo-Pacific Strategy

French President Emmanuel Macron is greeted on his arrival to Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, July 25, 2021. Credit: Facebook/ Emmanuel Macron

French Polynesia and France’s Indo-Pacific Strategy – The Diplomat

French Polynesia, with its strategic location and massive EEZ, will play a key role in France’s Indo-Pacific policy.

By Paco Milhiet May 10, 2022

In July 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron visited French Polynesia for the first time in his mandate. Macron had to answer many domestic political questions about the health crisis linked to COVID-19, the underestimated effects of the consequences of nuclear tests, the inscription of the Marquesas Islands on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the fight against the effects of climate change.

The presidential visit also had an international dimension, however. In a context of China’s growing influence in the Pacific region, Macron clarified the multimodal policy that France is implementing in the Indo-Pacific region.

The International Context

France officially adopted an Indo-Pacific strategy in May 2018. This concept has been developed since the beginning of the 21st century by several governments, notably the United States, Australia, and Japan. Geographically, the Indo-Pacific region is a maritime and terrestrial space encompassing the Indian and Pacific Oceans, extending to all neighboring countries. But the Indo-Pacific is above all a strategic construction that aims to contain the rise of China. The international promotion of the concept follows the development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), another transnational project supported by China since 2013. All countries that have embraced Indo-Pacific semantics share the same ambition to contain China’s influence in the region.

France has developed its own conception of the Indo-Pacific strategy. It has diplomatic, cultural, economic, and military levers of influence in the region. However, it is mainly the exercise of national sovereignty in the French Indo-Pacific collectivities (FIPC) – including Reunion Island, Mayotte, French Southern and Arctic Lands, Wallis and Futuna, New Caledonia and French Polynesia – that legitimizes France’s presence in this vast region and makes up the specificity of the French doctrine.

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