Pulled East. The rise of China, Europe and French security policy in the Asia-Pacific
This article delivers the first post-Cold War history of how France – the European power with the largest political-military footprint in the Asia-Pacific – has responded to the national security challenges posed by the rise of China. Based upon a unique body of primary sources (80 interviews conducted in Europe, the Asia-Pacific and the United States; declassified archival documents; and leaked diplomatic cables), it shows that China’s growing assertiveness after 2009 (and national policymakers’ perceptions thereof) has been the key driver of change in French security policy in the region, pulling France strategically into the Asia-Pacific. Specifically, growing threat perceptions of China’s rise – coupled with steadily rising regional economic interests – have led Paris to forge a cohesive policy framework, the Indo-Pacific strategy, and to bolster the political-military dimension of its regional presence. By investigating this key yet neglected dimension of French and European security policies, and by leveraging a unique body of primary written and oral sources, this study fills an important gap in the scholarly literature on both European and Asia-Pacific security dynamics. The findings of this article also shed new light on the political and military assets that France can bring to bear in the formulation of a common EU security policy toward the Asia-Pacific and on the implications thereof for the prospect of a transatlantic strategy vis-à-vis China.