They’re calling it gesture diplomacy, French president Emmanuel Macron’s instinctive use of ceremonial events, symbolic gifts, history-laden references and pageantry reminiscent of times past to deal with foreign countries.
- Ahead of Mr Macron’s arrival in Britain on Thursday, January 18, it was made known that he would loan it the Bayeux tapestry. That would be the first time it will have left France in 900 years and the British are suitably grateful, impressed and flattered by the regard shown to them by France’s smooth young president.
- Before the Bayeux became a grand gesture, Mr Macron was in Beijing, gifting Chinese President Xi Jingping an eight-year-old gelding named Vesuvius. The horse, from France’s presidential cavalry corps, was meant to symbolize and represent “French excellence.” It was an eye-catching, hard-to-forget reminder to China that France is waiting to be its pre-eminent European partner after Brexit.
- Further back in Mr Macron’s busy first months as France’s president, he played host to US president Donald Trump at a spit-and-polish military parade calculated to appeal to a man who likes army generals.
Diplomacy was always about grand gestures. In the 21st century, we sometimes forget that.