Chinese President Xi Jinping was among the first world leaders to congratulate Emmanuel Macron after his emphatic victory in Sunday’s presidential election. And it could be the start of a beautiful relationship if the Chinese media is to be believed.
While mainstream European media focused on his age and the story of how he met and married a woman 24 years his senior, many Chinese commentators introduced the 39-year-old Macron as a keen student of modern Chinese history with a deep interest in two of the nation’s most influential leaders: Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.
In a post run on its WeChat account, The Beijing News harked back to a March 3 interview with Le Parisien in which Macron said: “I am a Maoist [Je suis Maoiste].” He went on to qualify the statement by explaining that for Mao, “a good program is what works [un bon programme cest ce qui marche].”
Earlier that day, Macron invoked Deng’s maxim “it doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice” in response to a question on French commercial radio network RTL about how the then-candidate saw the left/right divide in France.
Elsewhere, it was noted that Macron referred to the intense presidential campaign and endless opinion polls as a “long march” – a somewhat flippant reference to the bitter civil war trek that eventually led to Mao emerging as undisputed party leader.
Some commentators have reminded readers that former Communist Party leaders such as Deng, Zhou Enlai and Chen Yi were among 4,000 young Chinese who studied in France from 1912 to 1927.
Macron’s campaign team attempted to play down the multiple references to Communist China and even went as far as to tell Agence France-Presse not to draw conclusions from the repeated mentions. “There is no red thread,” said one of Macron’s campaign advisors.
But the Chinese media were having none of it and are painting former investment banker Macron as a dear friend of the motherland.
“Macron appreciates China very much and is very friendly,” wrote Song Luzheng, a columnist for pro-nationalist opinion site guancha.cn.
There is some basis to these claims of fraternity with the Chinese as Macron was lavish in his praise of the economic development of China in his book-cum-manifesto, Révolution, published in November last year. He also wrote that Chinese leaders have never forgotten the fact that France was the first major Western power to establish full diplomatic ties with China (in 1973, Georges Pompidou became the first Western head of state to visit Beijing).
More importantly, Macron’s political ideals will likely drive him to forge closer ties with China. As Song pointed out, with his notion of “economic liberalism,” France is poised to join China in opposing the current US administration’s agenda of anti-globalization, anti-free-trade and climate change denial.