Why is the topic relevant? Emmanuel Macron has made a trip to promote French trade to the PRC at a time when other European leaders are moving away from cooperation with the PRC, the EU is trying to reduce its economic dependence on China, and the EU is highlighting the serious security risks of such cooperation. At the same time, the EU regards Taiwan as its democratic ally in the Indo-Pacific and encourages Member States to strengthen cooperation with Taiwan. Meanwhile, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has a growing presence in the Taiwan Strait, conducting military exercises which have intensified in recent months. One began immediately after the end of Macron’s visit.
What is the context? President Emmanuel Macron made several controversial statements in media interviews after his visit to the PRC in relation to Taiwan. He stressed that Europe should resist pressure to become a supporter of the US. He suggested that Europe should not be drawn into the conflict between the US and China over Taiwan. “The big risk that Europe faces is that it gets caught up in crises that are not ours and so is unable to build up its strategic autonomy,” he said. Macron’s concept of strategic autonomy, admired in the PRC, is aimed at weakening the transatlantic alliance at a time when US-China relations are at a standstill. As an example, he cited the issue of Taiwan, a country that the EU considers its democratic partner in the Indo-Pacific.
Macron invited the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, but she was not given nearly as much space as the French President. Her programme (three official meetings and a press conference) was fit into a single day. Beijing is making it clear that the EU is not a partner for it, and will continue to weaken the EU’s common foreign policy and deal with partners on a bilateral basis.
Macron’s remarks have sparked a wave of criticism that sees them as undermining US efforts to tame the PRC. At the end of their three-day trip, the two statesmen signed a joint statement committing themselves to a “global strategic partnership”. According to The New York Times, Macron has thus adopted an independent European stance and is moving towards a “multipolar world”, i.e. a world that is not dominated by the Americans.
Why is the topic important for the Czech Republic? The visit of Emmanuel Macron and his subsequent statements should not be interpreted as a unified position of the EU member states. The Czech Republic, in cooperation with its partners in the EU, should strongly distance itself from his words and put our position in the right place, so that Czech support for Taiwan is not called into question.
The Czech Republic has long been building partnership relations with Taiwan, as evidenced by the recent trip to Taiwan by the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Markéta Pekarová Adamová. Negative developments in the Taiwan Strait would threaten Czech interests and investments. The Czech Republic is also seeking political support for Taiwan in order to prevent a possible military conflict.
The Czech Republic should therefore distance itself from France’s position and define its response to a possible crisis in the Taiwan Strait. This does not necessarily mean military involvement by the Czech Republic, but it should, for example, be about further deepening relations with Taiwan in peacetime, i.e. building on the Czech position. The Czech Republic should have an economic toolbox ready to respond in the event of an invasion.