Macron should stand firm on strategic autonomy stance

Much of the world breathed a collective sigh of relief upon Emmanuel Macron's re-election as French president. After all, as global public opinion has observed, France, actually much of the rest of the international community, has just escaped a political, social and economic earthquake many believe would have been comparable to Britain's exit from the European Union and the 2016 election of Donald Trump as US president.

Given Marine Le Pen, Macron's rival in Sunday's French presidential election, who is a far-right nationalist and Eurosceptic, received 41.5 percent of the votes, there is no doubt a sizable proportion of the French public is dissatisfied with the domestic status quo in present-day France.

The popular approval of Le Pen has much to do with the economic pains France is suffering in the lingering aftermath of the euro debt crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and, most recently, the ongoing Ukraine conflict.

But internationally, it was widely feared a Le Pen victory would represent a substantial setback for European integration and economic globalization.

While it has not gone down well on the other side of the Atlantic, President Macron's proposal for a return to Gaullism and strategic autonomy has been widely, if cautiously, welcomed elsewhere as an overdue effort to be free of Washington's bridle.

He has carefully kept a distance from the arrogant Washington, insisting France and the European Union should not be forced to take sides between China and the United States, and instead should become an important pole in a multi-polar world. A stance that could prove instrumental to European and global peace and security in today's time of turbulent international relations. Just as European Council President Charles Michel wrote on Twitter, "In this turbulent period, we need a solid Europe and a France totally committed to a more sovereign and more strategic European Union".

Macron has emphasized defense autonomy that is not reliant on the United States, technological autonomy that is not reliant on other countries, and diplomatic autonomy that is not subordinate to the US. Such a position will help foster a continuously healthy China-France relationship. It was based on such a political tradition that France became the first major Western power to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, and the first to form an all-round strategic partnership with China.

Not only have the two countries benefited tremendously from such a partnership, their many similar ideas on international relations and global governance are conducive to a fairer and more just world order. With the parliamentary elections pending, and the prospect of "cohabitation" with a prime minister from an opposition party lurking, it remains unclear how far Macron will go in assuaging public discontent at the domestic situation.

But no matter how those elections play out in June, the French president should stick to his guns when it comes to foreign policy.