Via Airbus Deals, Macron Provides China New Means of War Against US

Guangzhou: Macron and Xi Jinpig walking in the garden of the residence of the governor of Guangdong

Written by: Morgan Ortagus

Published by: The Washington Examiner |

French President Emmanuel Macron used his recent state visit to China to throw gasoline on fiery tensions between the West and the Middle Kingdom.

Visiting Beijing in a flaccid attempt to limit China’s support for the Russian army, Macron warned that Europe risks being “caught up in crises that are not ours, which prevents it from building strategic autonomy.” One does not need to be a career diplomat to know the crisis Macron spoke of: a Chinese invasion of Taiwan and subsequent unified military response from the West.

China is the only nation on Earth seeking a military confrontation with Taiwan. But Europe will be a linchpin in any successful effort to deter China from taking that action. Chinese planners are watching Western capitals closely to determine if an attack on Taiwan would be answered with heavy sanctions and an uncoupling from the Chinese economy. Perhaps Macron was keen to avoid antagonizing the Chinese on their own soil. Instead of aggravating the famously sensitive communist regime, however, he all but waved a green starter flag to the rapidly expanding People’s Liberation Army.

More insidious was the diplomatic prizes Macron offered to Chinese leader Xi Jinping. 

Chinese state media reported that France would participate in China’s third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. U.S. national security officials have long warned developing countries of the pronounced dangers of the debt diplomacy trap inherent in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Awarding legitimacy to this CCP program undermines careful diplomacy by French allies to counter these destructive loan policies. 

Even more troubling was the announcement that Airbus, a French-headquartered manufacturer of civilian airliners, would sell China nearly 200 new passenger jets and build an assembly plant outside Tianjin. Airbus Helicopters also signed a lucrative deal to supply dozens of new multirole helicopters that can make a round-trip visit to Taiwan without refueling.

U.S. companies do sell goods to China, but the sale of wares with potential military applications is restrained by the law and patriotic pragmatism. Not Airbus. The French company is not simply flying new jets and helicopters from Toulouse to Shanghai. It is teaching Chinese technicians the intricate choreography of modern aircraft construction, an art that took Americans and Europeans decades to master. Caving to Beijing’s requirement of state ownership in key companies, Airbus forged close links with Beijing’s military-industrial complex. The plane-maker’s local CEO is a member of the Chinese Communist Party whose prior job was leading Tianjin’s Communist Youth League. Paris defends itself by claiming its passenger liners and helicopters are for innocent purposes, such as search and rescue, civilian air travel, medical evacuation, and servicing offshore energy platforms.

If that is intended as a joke, it is a bad one. It takes little to convert an airliner carrying civilians from Tianjin into a strategic airlift asset carrying PLA paratroopers to Taipei. And all it takes are some upgraded avionics and a couple of new gun mounts to convert a purported civilian multirole helicopter into a combat vehicle. Thus, with French engineers teaching their communist counterparts the finer points of modern aviation architecture, China will soon have little difficulty converting Airbus assets into platforms that can sink American submarines and kill U.S. sailors. 

Paris may have been so upset about Australia canceling its order for French-made Barracuda attack submarines that it has now sold China the means to hunt and torpedo Australia’s pending order of American-made Virginia-class submarines.

It is worth pressing the Biden administration on Macron’s comments and his side hustle with the CCP. American and French companies will continue to do business in China — the Trump administration even negotiated a trade deal with China — but this French deal is outrageous. It directly endangers the national security of France’s oldest ally. And while the Elysee Palace claims there has been no change in France’s position on China, many of its allies disagree. Biden recently summoned the Israeli ambassador over his government’s judicial reform legislation — there is no reason he shouldn’t summon the French ambassador over his government’s support for our adversary.

America came to the aid of Europe and Ukraine when an existential threat engulfed the continent. The foundation of the American-French relationship is etched in our nation’s founding and the strength of the NATO-ally relationship. Yet, by arming China’s budding invasion force, Macron undermines the fabric of one of the most important military alliances in history. 

What a disgrace and betrayal if American service members end up on the receiving end of French military technology.

Morgan Ortagus is the founder of POLARIS National Security. She served as the spokeswoman for the State Department under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.