Jacob Ross – France thinks of itself as a power in the Indo-Pacific, a fact often ignored by Germany. But can Paris achieve its goals in this vast geopolitical area?
During his state visit to China in April, French President Emmanuel Macron made controversial statements about the European Union and Taiwan, provoking outrage both in Europe and the United States. The statements, made after Macron met with President Xi Jinping, also drew considerable criticism in Germany, where commentators suggested the remarks were a rehearsal for possible rapprochement with Beijing, something that could threaten to divide Europe.
France is directly affected by the growing tensions in the region. For both Berlin and Paris, it is crucial to protect free trade routes as well as the much-discussed international rules-based order. But for France, it is also—and above all—a question of national territory. Macron regularly emphasizes that France is an “Indo-Pacific country,” as do policy guidelines issued by the French foreign and defense ministries.
Of the 13 French overseas territories, three are located in the Indian Ocean (Réunion, Mayotte, and the Southern and Antarctic Territories) and four in the Pacific (New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna Islands, and Clipperton Island). Between them, these seven territories amount to about 90 percent of France’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), covering 10.2 million square kilometers, the second largest in the world after the United States. Within the Indo-Pacific region, 1.6 million French citizens live on French national territory, as well as 400,000 more who are resident in other countries in the region.