Balancing China in the Indo-Pacific: the role of France and Germany

Roderick Kefferpütz
6 min readFeb 22, 2022
Photo by kit sanchez on Unsplash

France and Germany have an opportunity to jointly pursue Europe’s interests in the Indo-Pacific and bolster regional security, argue Mathieu Duchâtel and Roderick Kefferpütz. This article is the first in a series called “A Franco-German approach to China,” originally published by Institut Montaigne and MERICS.

The shadow of Russian military aggression in Ukraine looms large over the Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum hosted by France today. The Indo-Pacific feels more distant than ever from Paris, Berlin and other European capitals. It makes the Franco-German ambition, shared by the Netherlands, to turn the EU into an influential presence in the Indo-Pacific seem out of place. Why focus on a far-flung region when the immediate threat is at your front door? It is raising eyebrows in Warsaw and Vilnius, and is being met with a low sense of urgency in Stockholm and Rome. Meanwhile, China is watching for signs of transatlantic and intra-European disunity in response to the Russian offensive.

But if anything, the crisis engineered by Moscow is a potent reminder of the centrality of the balance of power and the fragility of rules in international politics. The distribution of power, solidity of rules, and political developments in the Indo-Pacific will, to a large extent, determine the future international order and Europe’s capacity to defend its interests and influence the world.

European involvement in the Indo-Pacific is necessary and unavoidable

This makes increased European involvement in the Indo-Pacific both necessary and unavoidable. It is in Europe’s interest to maintain a stable regional security order and pursue a deeper economic and political footprint. Although Paris has tended to focus on hard security and Berlin on economic relations and soft security, a process of mutual influencing has narrowed Franco-German differences to the region.

Post-AUKUS French policy towards the Indo-Pacific is becoming “more German”. The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs now makes it clear that France intends to “champion a third path”, “beyond any logic of blocks”. “ASEAN centrality” is taking pre-eminence in French diplomatic language, and political attention is…

Roderick Kefferpütz

Advisor and Writer on the changing geopolitical and economic world order. ( )