France’s Foreign Policy is Too Soft? The Perception of French Foreign Policy

A trade dispute has emerged between Australia and China due to the perception that France is too soft on China, according to an article by The Wall Street Journal

France’s Foreign Policy is Too Soft? The Perception of French Foreign Policy

A trade dispute between Australia and China has emerged due to the perception that France is too soft on China, according to an article by The Wall Street Journal. The article goes into detail about what caused this perception and how it has been a point of contention in the Australia-China trade dispute for several months. It cites the recent visit of French President Emmanuel Macron as “the last straw” which led to a response from Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. In his statement, Turnbull explained that France’s decision to sell warships was contradictory to its status as an all

France’s Foreign Policy

Despite what some view as weakness, the perception of French policy towards China is not new. “(In the late 1970s and early ’80s), the French government tended to be very friendly toward China, not willing to criticize it too heavily. You had President François Mitterrand” who “liked China,” the article quoted a French government official as saying. The history of French economic relationship with China has also been quite positive for both countries. However, according to the article, this all changed after President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013. In 2014, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius wrote an op-ed in the Financial Times which raised a number of concerns about the prospect of Chinese government investment in French companies.

The Perception of French Foreign Policy

asian economic power. French policy is inconsistent with other world powers that support maintaining a strong US-led global free trade order, argues an article by the Washington Post. It talks about President Macron’s words on the importance of the Paris climate accord in a possible renegotiation with President Trump. A few weeks later, the French President backs off of his decision by saying that he welcomes all US policies. This stance of France contrasts heavily with other world powers that have been on the opposite side of the fence and fully supported the agreement. It is common for French President Emmanuel Macron to be too friendly to China while at the same time criticizing the EU for “exporting the wrong values,” argues an article by The Economist.

What Led to this Perception?

France and Australia have a deep connection dating back to when the Australian Navy first went to France in the 18th century to receive military training. Although the French Navy disbanded the Australian Navy’s fleet in 1825, the two have been close allies ever since. Additionally, French Naval forces have helped the Australian Navy during its many conflicts including in World War I and World War II. These relations are important to the French but also helps explain why the perception exists. The most obvious problem with France selling ships to China is the fact that the French Navy is not only the world’s fourth largest, it is also the second oldest navy in operation today.


While this recent visit was ultimately unsuccessful in breaking the logjam over the A$50 billion purchase of the French submarines, there is a very clear lesson here: countries should be very careful about judging a nation based on how the nation’s leaders conduct their bilateral relations, especially when it comes to countries like China. Especially given the information available and the information these countries can obtain about each other’s interests and actions. As always, there is also a higher level of expectations surrounding any visit from a head of state to their country. In many cases, leaders will arrive with a clear set of objectives to achieve during the visit.