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China, The West And Macron's "Third Way" For Cooling Global Tensions

The French President begins a three-day visit to China. He has the difficult task of forging a "third way" for Europe between U.S. and Chinese interests in an increasingly polarized world.

Photo of French president Emmanuel Macron arriving in Beijing

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives at Beijing on Wednesday for a state visit to China.

Pierre Haski


PARIS — Do not send the wrong message.

This is the main issue at stake in French President Emmanuel Macron's three-day visit to China. He must not send the wrong message about Ukraine but instead pretend to believe in Chinese mediation. He must not misunderstand the more global issue of China-Europe relations at a time when Beijing and Washington are increasingly at odds with each other.

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Emmanuel Macron chose to invite Ursula Von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, to join this trip. This is obviously an important gesture because it avoids a bilateral trap between the Chinese giant and each of the 27 European states, where the balance of power with the European Union is more favorable.

The moment is decisive. The country that the French president is returning to, after three years of absence due to the pandemic, is no longer the same. It has taken off and now places itself as the opposing superpower to the United States, as the only country capable of standing up to a hegemonic America. Russia appears to be weakened by its war in Ukraine, forced to recognize that it is China that now embodies the dissident pole against the West.

This new situation means that China has understood that the deterioration of its relationship with the United States is not cyclical, but structural. All Chinese logic is now aimed at dealing with American hostility in the long term. This particularly entails advanced technology, which is the heart of power in the 21st century, especially when one considers the rapid rise of artificial intelligence.

Europe is caught in a vice, which is what makes this journey even more complex than it already is. On the one hand, it is vainly looking for a third way between a purely commercial approach and completely siding with the U.S.

The commercial approach is disconnected from geopolitical issues, which would be suicidal. On the other hand, an alignment with Washington, in a remake of the Cold War, would serve U.S. interests more than European ones.

Photo of President Biden meeting with President Xi of the PRC

US President Joe Biden and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping

Biden - Xi via wikimedia commons

A polarized international stage

China's whole strategy is to smile at Europe to deviate it from America, and France, with its rhetoric of strategic autonomy, is a prime target.

I began this column by saying that the French President should not send the wrong message. He is playing a big game because some Europeans, scalded by his unreasonable dialogue with Vladimir Putin, are waiting for him to turn the corner with Xi Jinping.

Europe must not show complacency towards an imperial China.

Emmanuel Macron has no illusions about Chinese ambitions. But he wants to avoid the worst, which would be a total commitment of China on Russia's side in Ukraine — which would ultimately entail military involvement. He is therefore going to flatter the Chinese desire for mediation, which no one is taking seriously at this stage.

And similarly, in its quest for a third way, Europe must not show complacency towards an imperial China, which, as Ursula Von der Leyen rightly described last week, has considerably hardened its regime.

It is therefore a narrow path that must emerge from this trip, in which France and Europe are making their way through and increasingly polarized international stage.

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Not Your Grandma's Nonna: How Older Women In Italy Are Reclaiming Their Age

Women in Italy are living longer than ever. But severe economic and social inequality and loneliness mean that they urgently need a new model for community living – one that replaces the "one person, one house, one caregiver" narrative we have grown accustomed to.

Not Your Grandma's Nonna: How Older Women In Italy Are Reclaiming Their Age

Italy is home to many elderly people and few young ones.

Barbara Leda Kenny

ROMENina Ercolani is the oldest person in Italy. She is 112 years old. According to newspaper interviews, she enjoys eating sweets and yogurt. Mrs. Nina is not alone: over the past three years, there has been an exponential growth in the number of centenarians in Italy. With over 20,000 people who've surpassed the age of 100, Italy is in fact the country with the highest number of centenarians in Europe.

Life expectancy at the national level is already high. Experts say it can be even higher for those who cultivate their own gardens, live away from major sources of pollution, and preferably in small towns near the sea. Years of sunsets and tomatoes with a view of the sea – it used to be a romantic fantasy but is now becoming increasingly plausible.

Centenarians occupy the forefront of a transformation taking place in a country where living a long life means being among the oldest of the old. Italy is the second oldest country in the world, and it ranks first in the number of people over eighty. In simple terms, this means that Italy is home to many elderly people and few young ones: those over 65 make up almost one in four, while children (under 14) account for just over one in 10. The elderly population will continue to grow in the coming years, as the baby boomer generation, born between 1961 and 1976, is the country's largest age group.

But there is one important data set to consider when discussing our demographics: in general, women make up a slight majority of the population, but from the age of sixty onwards, the gap progressively widens. Every single Italian over 110 years old is a woman.

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